The U.K. Foreign Office issued a recent advisory warning British citizens they could face discrimination in parts of the United States based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"The U.S. is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country," the advisory on its website says. "LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi."
Obama assured Britons they should feel free to travel throughout America, even though he criticized laws targeting members of the LGBT community.
"I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people. They are hospitable people. They are beautiful states, and you are welcome and you should come and enjoy yourselves," he said. I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned."
"And they’re in response to politics, in part; in part, some strong emotions that are generated by people--some of whom are good people--but I just disagree with when it comes to respecting the equal rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, whether they're transgender or gay or lesbian," he added. "And although I respect their different viewpoints, I think it’s very important for us not to send signals that anybody is treated differently."
In recent weeks White House officials have criticized the North Carolina law, as well as similar measures in other states. But this marked the first time the president has spoken out on the subject.
At least five federal agencies, including the Education Department, are examining whether they can withhold money from North Carolina in response to its new law. The Republican sponsor of a similar law in Tennessee withdrew it after the state's GOP governor joined business groups and others in criticizing it, and the Tennessee attorney general issued an opinion saying that the state risked losing as much as $1.3 billion in federal funds for education if the bill became law.
William Wan contributed to this report.