- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

With a wink and a nod, the White House on Wednesday admitted it’s sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin by choosing openly gay athletes to represent the U.S. at February’s Olympic Winter Games opening ceremony in Sochi.

White House press secretary Jay Carney dodged questions on whether the administration sought to protest anti-gay laws in Russia with its delegation, but did say the choices are meant to showcase the “diversity” of American culture.

President Obama “is very proud of the delegation and the diversity it represents and he looks forward, as every American does, to the competition,” Mr. Carney said. “In the selection of this delegation, we are sending the message that the United States is a diverse place and this delegation represents that diversity.”

The administration has been critical of anti-LGBT legislation in Russia, including a law that bans so-called “gay propaganda.” Russian politicians and other notable figures in that country also have spoken out, often using inflammatory language, against gays and lesbians.

The White House’s selection of legendary tennis star Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow, both of whom are openly gay, will again draw attention to gay rights in Russia.

But Mr. Carney stressed that the administration has made no secret of its displeasure with Russia’s actions, and isn’t waiting until the Sochi games to voice its opposition.

“That’s not a message we would wait to send,” he said. “We have been very clear, the president very clear, that he finds it offensive, the LGBT legislation in Russia. We take very clear and strong stands on that issue.”

The U.S. delegation for the February games in Sochi does not include a member of the first family or a former president — the first omission of its kind in 12 years. The most senior American official to attend the Sochi games will be White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors.

For last summer’s London Oylmpic Games, first lady Michelle Obama led the U.S. delegation.

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