Valerie Jarrett on ‘religious freedom legislation’ and gender stereotypes in media and toys

By Jason Sickles

The Department of Justice and other federal agencies are scrutinizing new state laws that some call legalized discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people, President Obama’s senior adviser told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric on Wednesday.

Valerie Jarrett said what, if any, action may be taken against Mississippi’s and North Carolina’s so-called religious freedom legislation is still to be determined.

“We’ll be interested in hearing what their findings are,” Jarrett said during a live interview. “But they are certainly taking a look at the parameters of the impact of these laws.”

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, signed a law that allows religious groups and some private businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.

The controversial law comes shortly after the Republican governor of North Carolina approved legislation limiting bathroom options for transgender people and prohibiting local communities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances.

Nearly 200 similar laws have been proposed across the country since January. Couric asked Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, if she thought the new laws were a backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to legalize gay marriage.

“I can’t answer the motivation, but I can tell you that we think it’s wrong, we think it’s destructive and we don’t think it reflects the better ideals or who we are as a country,” the president’s longtime confidante said.

Jarrett spoke from the White House lawn, where she had convened an all-day conference on gender stereotypes in the media and toys.

“The evidence shows the media that children watch, the toys with which they play, can have a great deal of influence on careers they choose, their interests, their self-esteem,” she told Couric. “It’s going take every family, family by family; it’s going to take businesses that realize it is within their self-interest to break down these stereotypes. We have to highlight this issue that hasn’t been done historically.”