Canadian LGBT travelers warned about risks of visiting the United States

About 1 million Canadians identify as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

Canada has issued a warning to its citizens that visiting the United States may be unsafe for some travelers from the agency that manages diplomatic relations, promotes trade, and leads international affairs equivalent to the U.S. State Department.

The Canadian government points out that the rate of firearm possession in the US is high, it is legal in many states for US citizens to openly carry firearms in public, and mass shootings occur often.

About 1 million Canadians identify with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, so America’s northern neighbor has warned LGBTQ travelers of the risks of visiting the United States, where the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that domestic violence extremists have increased threats of violence against the community within the last year.

Same-sex sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and/or relationships are subject to discriminatory attitudes, actions, regulations, and laws in many societies around the globe.

Ottawa’s latest travel advisory released this week warns people to check the laws of the state they are visiting if they identify as two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersex.

“Some states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons,” Global Affairs Canada said in its advisory. “Check relevant state and local laws.”

Asked about the advice, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government has experts on hand to “monitor whether there are particular dangers to particular groups of Canadians”.

“Every Canadian government … needs to put at the center of everything we do, the interest and the safety of every single Canadian and every single group of Canadians,” Freeland added. “That’s what we’re doing now”.

Dozens of US states have recently passed laws that advocates say curtail LGBTQ rights, including restrictions on gender transitions for minors, prohibitions on transgender people participating in women’s sports and bans on drag shows in public.

In recent months, politicians in Tennessee, Florida, and other Republican-controlled states have introduced legislation that targets the LGBT community.

In March 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by detractors. The law bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, but the Florida Board of Education expanded those restrictions to include all grades.

In March, Tennessee became the first state to impose unconstitutional restrictions on public drag performances that make it a criminal offense to engage in ‘an adult cabaret performance’ where it can be viewed by children, although a federal judge temporarily blocked the intrusive law.

At least 14 states have passed laws or policies that restrict gender-affirming care for people under the age of legal majority, which is the threshold for legal adulthood.

In 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to specifically include sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination.

This inclusion was a clear declaration by Parliament that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Canadians are entitled to “an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have…”

In June, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the biggest LGBTQ advocacy group in the US, declared a national state of emergency, citing “real, tangible and dangerous” threats against LGBTQ people.

DHS said that the issues inspiring threats and calls of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community could lead to a rise of potential attacks against larger targets, such as public spaces and healthcare sites that may be linked to the community.

“High-profile attacks against schools and faith-based institutions like the recent shooting in Nashville have historically served as inspiration for individuals to conduct copycat attacks,” said DHS after analysts cited social media chatter concerning the 28-year-old who killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School, a parochial elementary school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

More than 20 million Canadians travel to the US every year, making their southern neighbor their top destination by far.

About 4 percent of Canadians aged 15 years and older identify as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, according to government data.

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