Lesbian news anchor Robin Roberts is the face of Mississippi's official state tourism publication this year, joining Gov. Phil Bryant, who recently signed an anti-LGBT bill into law, in encouraging tourists to visit the Magnolia State.
The 2016 official tour guide for the state of Mississippi, which features Roberts on the cover, came out well before the governor signed a pro-discrimination law, allowing businesses, individuals and broadly defined "religiously affiliated organizations" to refuse service to LGBT people, single mothers, and others who somehow offend an individual's "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" regarding marriage and sexuality. The law also directly targets transgender residents, effectively claiming that one's sex assigned at birth is immutable and will be the only gender recognized by the state. The law takes effect July 1.
Roberts, who grew up in Pass Christian, Miss., is interviewed about her work covering the Mississippi impact of Hurricane Katrina for Good Morning America. Inside the magazine, the cover story indicates that "Robin Roberts reflects on how her Mississippi roots shaped her life."
Roberts's smiling face not only covers the annual tourism publication but also appears on MississippiTourGuide.com as well as on the state's tourism website, VisitMississippi.org.
The state's tourism industry was recently parodied in a satirical ad by Funny or Die, encouraging visitors to travel to the state where "We have an oppressive law to match our oppressive heat." That video directs viewers to the state's official tourism website, where Roberts is prominently featured.
In the interview with the state's tourism publication, Roberts makes no mention of her sexuality or longtime girlfriend. "Roberts advises first-time visitors to enter Mississippi with an open mind, ready to experience that great food, prefect weather and what she calls 'true Southern hospitality,'" the article reads.
That "Southern hospitality" now includes what LGBT activists have decried as the nation's strongest pro-discrimination law.
In the article, Roberts reflects on her upbringing and her appreciation for her home state: "I'm so incredibly proud to say I'm from Mississippi," she says. "And Mississippians continue to make me proud to say that's where I'm from."
Gov. Bryant, a Republican who signed the anti-LGBT bill into law and has claimed that it "reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom," also wrote a letter to visitors featured prominently in the tourism magazine.
"We are proud of our distinct culture, and we want to share it with you," writes Bryant, along with his wife in an editor's note welcoming tourists to the state. "Mississippi is such a diverse and multifaceted place..."
When The Advocate reached out to Roberts for comment, ABC News’s vice president of communication, Heather Riley, responded: “Robin is away on vacation, I am happy to follow up with you when she returns.”
Officials with the state tourism magazine did not immediately respond to The Advocate's request for comment.