Openly gay athletes – tennis champion Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow – will be members of the United States Olympic delegation to the winter games in Sochi, Russia.

US Olympic Delegation Includes Openly Gay Athletes

King, who has become a passionate LGBT activist since coming out as a lesbian in 1981, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009. Cahow, a two-time Olympian with the U.S. women’s hockey squad, came out as gay earlier in 2013.

Caitlin Cahow

Obama and the White House were under pressure and scrutiny to include gay leaders in the Olympic delegation. Among other petitions, was a letter sent by Human Rights First to Valerie Jarrett, an Obama aide.

“The selection of the members of the official U.S. delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics is an important opportunity to signal to Russia and the world the priority the Obama administration places on equality and human dignity,” the letter read.

“We urge you to ensure that the U.S. delegation includes prominent LGBT people — athletes, government officials and others — as well as allies of the LGBT community who will carry a message of tolerance and respect for individual rights and human dignity," the letter continued.

Obama, Greg Louganis Against Olympic Boycott

Throughout the ongoing controversy of the Olympics taking place in the notoriously anti-gay Russia, Obama has maintained his position that the games provide an opportunity to change minds and shouldn’t be avoided altogether, as in a boycott.

"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," Obama said over the summer.

Greg Louganis, who was a member of the U.S. Olympic team who boycotted the Moscow Games in 1980 and later came out as gay, is likewise against a boycott. Openly gay figure skater Johnny Weir has also voiced his opposition to a boycott.

Johnny Weir at the 2010 Olympics

Putin Promises Safety For Gay Athletes

When Russia implemented its nationwide anti-gay laws, which includes fining those who spread “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, many balked at the idea of the Sochi Olympics going on as planned. Safety of LGBT athletes and fans became a major concern. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin supports the new laws of the land, he’s stated that gay athletes will have nothing to worry about during the Olympics.

"We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans,” Putin said, according to Ria Novosti. “ So that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation.”

– Chelsea Regan

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