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Obama Sends Gay Athletes in Presidential Delegation to Sochi Olympics

President Obama will not attend the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but he is sending some openly gay athletes in what's being seen as a message to that nation about diversity and acceptance in the face of Russia's laws banning 'gay propaganda'.

KingLesbian tennis legend Billie Jean King will attend the opening ceremonies in a delegation led by former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano. Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, and figure skater Brian Boitano will join them.

Out lesbian Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey will join the delegation for the closing ceremonies, led by William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State. Joining them are Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist in speed skating, and Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating.

Neither First Lady Michelle Obama nor VP Joe Biden will attend.

Said Catow to USA Today:

"It's obviously a statement that's being made, but I think it's an incredibly respectful one. Basically, the White House is highlighting Americans who know what it means to have freedoms and liberties under the constitution. That's really what we're representing in Sochi and it's not at all different from what's espoused in the spirit of Olympism. So I think it's just a great group of people. I can't believe I've been named one of them because it's a remarkable roster and I just think that we're going to represent what the best America can be. Hopefully, it will unify all of Team USA and send a message of love and acceptance to the world."

The AP adds:

The decision follows a public campaign by gay rights groups to urge the White House to include gays, lesbians and their supporters in the delegation in hopes of drawing attention to Russia's national laws banning "gay propaganda." Those laws and the broader issue of discrimination against the LGBT community in Russia have become a flash point as the world looks to next year's Olympic Games in Sochi.

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the groups that wrote the White House last month asking Obama to include gays and lesbians in the delegation, applauded the unveiling of the delegation Tuesday.

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  1. some real good choices by the president and am glad he the first lady and vice president chose to join the french and germans staying home.

    Posted by: walter | Dec 17, 2013 7:30:16 PM

  2. Unimpressed ..sorry. In fact disgusted. USA should not be supporting the SOCHI games at all. There should be no delegation. Our athletes should refuse to go. THIS IS not a stand . Boycotting sports contributed to the fall of apartheid. But I guess we as Americans find it easy to participate in SOCHI because we do not care about full equality for Lgbt Americans ...yet.. right? .. Self marginalizing reigns as we as a community and movement have yet to set the benchmark in THE USA... so yea let's support institutionalization of homophobia. That's about right isn't it...

    Posted by: Nathan | Dec 17, 2013 7:38:35 PM

  3. Nathan sending gay delegates to the olympics on behalf of the U.S. is a brilliant move. It shows that we're proud of our gay citizens.

    Posted by: palto | Dec 17, 2013 7:40:20 PM

  4. Wait, does that mean Janet Napolitano has come out?

    Posted by: crispy | Dec 17, 2013 7:54:23 PM

  5. Or Brian Boitano has come out?

    Posted by: simon | Dec 17, 2013 8:04:38 PM

  6. The Sochi games will become the gayest Olympics ever.

    Posted by: Jay | Dec 17, 2013 8:06:22 PM

  7. @Nathan. China is one of the most notorious abusers of human rights in modern history. England was at the forefront of drone strikes that killed hundreds of Afghan children, as well as and wireless wiretapping (right alongside the US as our staunchest partner). Brazil has a surprisingly high rate of police violence, documented torture and summary execution of the very poor in favelas, and worker exploitation (far higher numbers of poor are tortured and executed by police than Russian gay citizens each year) anf various laws have existed, if not against gays then women or other minorities, in various host countries. Not saying any of this is acceptable, but what is the cut off for when the world should boycott? Are Russia's gays more important than Afghan children or Brazil's poor? And what happens to the Olympics when they can pretty much only be held in Canada every two years (a country must be able to meet the highest of global human rights standards AND afford to host the games, yes?). The games transcend their hosts in a way, but also in many ways bring spotlights on their hosts' failings--would the world be talking about Russia's anti-gay positions at the level and to the extent they are without the Olympic glare? There is no one good answer and the IOC typically avoids the Muslim world with their strict enforced views and authoritarian's Russia would never have won the Olympics but what is done is done. But if every Olympics must be boycotted by every country who disagrees with any of their human rights actions, the Olympics would quickly cease to exist as would the global spotlight it brings and I don't accept that.

    Posted by: BreckRoy | Dec 17, 2013 8:08:16 PM

  8. Sending gay delegates is a good start. But I wish they would articulate their message to the Russian people. Despite failed leadership from the Putin administration and from the IOC, the Games provide an opportunity for people and athletes to come together and get past this institutionalized prejudice which sole intent is to divide them and keep them apart.

    Posted by: Rafael | Dec 17, 2013 8:31:15 PM

  9. Sending gay athlete means nothing. The Russian press is not going to mention any of these people as being gay. We will know they are gay but no one in Russia will know, unless they know privately.

    Obama is making (another) mistake by not boycotting the Sochi Olympics completely. We are handing Russian more than 300 billion dollars and they are laughing in our faces as they burn down gay clubs, beat gay people to death, destroy the lives of those teachers they perceive to be gay. It is disgusting. Of course Obama et al will not go but they will do little to nothing to save the lives of gay Russian citizens.

    If you are one of those people who say "it's okay that we attend... it's our duty to attend... we are depriving our own athletes of the honor... then I say bullpucky. If we can't get together as nations and do so with equality then we shouldn't be getting together at all.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Dec 17, 2013 8:57:16 PM

  10. Nathan,
    That ship has sailed, rather sunk. If you go down with it then your energy is wasted and that's worse than not helping at all.

    Posted by: dixichuk | Dec 17, 2013 9:04:24 PM

  11. An absolutely perfect way to handle a difficult diplomatic situation.

    Posted by: fanboi | Dec 17, 2013 9:25:04 PM

  12. What a bunch of sad....

    Posted by: Ankerich | Dec 17, 2013 9:26:18 PM

  13. Has Brian Boitano come out?

    In a May 2013 interview with CNBC, he still says, ''I don't discuss my private side.''

    If Boitano, 50, is gay, he's been put to shame by LGBT teen athletes who ARE out.

    Posted by: WW | Dec 17, 2013 9:43:54 PM

  14. Thank you Mr. President. Outstanding response to Czar Putin's tyranny.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 17, 2013 9:54:04 PM

  15. That's the making of a good action movie: gay olympic delegation goes to homophobic russia only to be captured and imprisoned. They manage to escape using their unique skills. Boitano, for example, is cornered by a group of guards and does a triple lutz over them to safety.

    Posted by: daws | Dec 17, 2013 10:10:34 PM

  16. it would be especially nice, if brian boitano, an absolutely beautiful skater in his day, who, the last i had heard, was hosting a cooking and lifestyle cable tv show,were to finally come out, even if incidentally, a la jodi foster and victor garber and that ilk. his privacy has been respected long enough.

    Posted by: bandanajack | Dec 17, 2013 10:14:07 PM

  17. @PALTO: But that accomplishes nothing except giving the US something to pat ourselves on the back over.

    In terms of affecting change, gay delegates accomplishes less than squat. The Putin regime view of LGBT Russians is that they're so much trash to be incinerated. What makes you think they'll hold American LGBTs in any higher regard.

    And these are people who hold no name recognition for the majority of Russia's citizenry. Do you think they'll be mentioned (if they're mentioned at all) in the state controlled media, over there, as "openly gay [such and such]?" Think again.

    Posted by: FFS | Dec 17, 2013 10:55:32 PM

  18. The Russians may not get to know most of these out delegates, but they will know Obama chose not to come, and they may ask why.
    And the rest of the world may get to know why, and be more informed about the way that Russia is treating their own people.

    Posted by: 604Brian | Dec 18, 2013 12:06:16 AM

  19. If they were to ask that question, Brian, the answer would be, "It isn't customary for the American President to travel abroad just to attend the Olympic games."

    That's less of a statement as it is just business as usual.

    Posted by: FFS | Dec 18, 2013 12:29:24 AM

  20. @Mike Ryan: You would do well to listen to Shawn Gaylord and other LGBT leaders in the U.S., who are in touch with actual Russian LGBT leaders and taking there cues from them, as to the proper responses to Czar Putin's tyranny. Gaylord and other American LGBT leaders have also been in contact with the White House and giving their advice to the President's people as to the proper responses. Surely there are many proper ways to respond to Russian Anti-LGBT laws. The French and German Presidents and others have chosen not to go. That's great. Our President, Vice President and First Lady have chosen not to go and to send a delegation made up of famous out and proud gay athletes or former athletes to the Olympics. I think the In Your Face showing that the USA respects LGBT people is also great.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 18, 2013 1:11:30 AM

  21. This response is absolutely fantastic, send a delegation comprising of gay achievers in place of government officials. These gay athletes will be sitting where high level US government official are suppose to be seated. A middle finger to Putin!

    Posted by: NY2.0 | Dec 18, 2013 1:28:10 AM

  22. I teared up when I read this. President 0bama is a hero.

    Posted by: throwslikeagirl | Dec 18, 2013 2:31:58 AM

  23. For heaven's sake, there's actually people here who are debating whether Napolitano or Boitano are "out"? Or "if" they're gay? Do you really have no idea how ridiculous that sounds?

    Grow up, be an adult, and stop pretending you don't know what you know. It's the 21st Century, so stop playing this childish "out" game. They're gay, you know it, they know it, everyone knows it. The end.

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Dec 18, 2013 2:40:50 AM

  24. How do King and Boitano and Napolitano etc plan to show their open disgust at the fascist persecution of Russian gays by the Putin dictatorship.

    The situation in Russia is beyond the point where their presence there will suffice (that appalling quislinh Uncle Tom Roberts proved that when he went to Russia for his personal financial benefit and insulted anyone with a brain by making the ludicrous claim that his physically being in Russia was activism).

    I want King to confim how she plans to protest.

    Silence = Death.

    If King remains silent then she deserves utter contempt and condemnation for collaboration with the Putin regime.

    Posted by: MaryM | Dec 18, 2013 5:14:22 AM

  25. Today I am reminded of the fact that it is good to be an American citizen.

    Posted by: Steve Rider | Dec 18, 2013 6:28:02 AM

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