This shouldn't really be that big a deal, but it is. In what is clearly a case of political tit-for-tat, President Barack Obama will include several openly gay athletes in the US delegation that will be headed to Russia as part of the United States contingent at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next year. Former tennis champ Billie Jean King and women's ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow are prominent among them.
This move is in response to gay rights groups urging the president to include openly gay athletes in the delegation to send a message to Russia. The host of the upcoming Winter Olympics passed some very controversial anti-gay legislation over the summer, much to the chagrin of the western world. There was initial chatter from the pro-gay lobby in Washington to encourage the president to consider a boycott of the Olympics. However, Obama had this to say at a August press conference in response.
"One of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there. And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker.”
Others included in the delegation are U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, figure skater Brian Boitano, presidential adviser Rob Nabors, former Olympic medal winners Bonnie Blair and speed skater Eric Heiden.
The Russian bill was passed in June and contains language banning the distribution of information about homosexuality to children, which includes gay rights protests, describing it as propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations. The bill passed through the State Duma and was backed by the Kremlin. It went through with a vote of 436-0.
Defenders of the law describe it as an effort to promote traditional Russian values rather than Western liberalism.