April 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Michelle Obama criticizes Miss. religious freedom law
Mississippi, Michelle Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

First Lady Michelle Obama gives the commencement speech at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. on Saturday, April 23, 2016. (Screen capture via livestream)

First lady Michelle Obama on Saturday criticized Mississippi’s controversial religious freedom law that critics contend allows anti-LGBT discrimination in the state.

She said during the commencement speech she delivered at Jackson State University, a historically black college in Jackson, Miss., that the country saw “how swiftly progress can hurdle backwards” when Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 into law on April 5.

“We’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African Americans, it’s about all Americans,” she said. “It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.”

The first lady’s speech comes a day after President Obama said during a London press conference that HB 1523 and North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and bans local municipalities from enacting anti-LGBT nondiscrimination, “should be overturned.” The British Foreign Office earlier this week issued an advisory that warns LGBT travelers about Mississippi’s HB 1523 and North Carolina’s HB 2.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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