By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2013 2:49 PM ET
White House officials are denying that President Obama’s decision to send LGBT athletes as part of the presidential delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is part of a political agenda.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “That’s not a message we would wait to send through this manner,” when asked Wednesday by NBC reporter Chuck Todd if the selection of out athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow was meant to send a message on gay rights to Russia, which has passed several anti-LGBT laws within the past year. A third member of the delegation, Olympic skating champion Brian Boitano, announced today that he is gay.
Boitano and legendary tennis player King will represent the U.S. during the opening ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, while Olympic hockey medalist Cahow will be at the closing ceremony. For for the first time since 2000, the delegation will not include an American president, vice president, first lady, or former president, notes ESPN.
“I think that this delegation brings attention to the remarkable diversity of the United States, as well as the success that the United States has had in sports, both at the Olympics and beyond,” Carney said, according to a transcript posted on BuzzFeed. “It is also a demonstration of high-level success in civic activism, as well as in government service.”
When pressed by ABC reporter Jonathan Karl if President Obama would encourage his delegation to protest the country’s antigay political climate, Carney responded, “I don’t expect that this delegation will comport itself any differently than previous delegations have or that delegations are expected to comport themselves.”
Obama has been outspoken in his disapproval of Russia’s so-called gay propaganda laws. In September he shared remarks before the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg alongside Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt that drove home this stance.
"We share a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being ... that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law. That our societies are strengthened and not weakened by diversity," Obama said.