Barack Obama is sending Russia a clear message about its treatment of gays and lesbians with his choices to represent the United States as delegates at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The tennis great Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the US delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies. For the first time since 2000 the US will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice-president to the games, reports LA Times.
“Russia has come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda”. Though the White House did not specifically address the Russian laws in making its announcement on Tuesday, spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that Obama “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America diversity, determination and teamwork”. The White House said Obama’s schedule would not permit him to attend the games.
“It’s a positive sign to see openly gay representatives in the delegation,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group that recently sent a letter urging Obama to include gays and lesbians in the delegation. “Hopefully it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.” King said she was “deeply honoured” to be named to the delegation.
“I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,” said King, who will attend the opening ceremony. C aitlin Cahow, a hockey player, is the other openly gay representative to the delegation. She will attend the closing ceremony. The US Olympic Committee made no comment about the sexual orientation of the delegation. In a nod to its disapproval of the law, however, Usoc recently revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.” France and Germany are among the other countries who will not send their presidents to Sochi for the Games. Earlier this year Obama rejected the idea of a US boycott of the Olympics despite a number of differences with Russia, including the anti-gay laThis move sends a strong signal: in 2010 Joe Biden led the delegation as vice-president, and in 2012 Michelle Obama carried out the role as first lady. This year’s group is led by the former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano. Others include Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia; figure skater Brian Boitano; and presidential adviser Rob Nabors.