President Barack Obama is sending a delegation with several notable gays to Russia for the Winter Olympics, symbolically sticking a rainbow flag in Vladimir Putin’s eye.
The move follows pressure from domestic gay and lesbian groups who are angry at Russians’ treatment of gays and its official rejection of U.S.-style “gay rights.”
The gay controversy was sparked by worry in Russia over its shrinking population of non-Muslim Russians. Russia’s Muslim population is a rising share of the population, and politicians have tried numerous speculative strategies to boost the non-Muslim birth rate. For example, over the last year, the government has rejected demands for increased social status of gays and lesbians.
Simultaneously, young thugs have posted online videos of their brutal attacks on gays.
Gays groups have pressured Obama to use the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Southern Russia, to show his support for Russian gays and lesbians.
The five-person delegation includes two people who have declared themselves to be lesbian or gay — former tennis player Billie Jean King and figure-skating star Brian Boitano.
The delegation is headed by Janet Napolitano, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security. The other two delegates are Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, and Robert Nabors, who has served as Obama’s deputy chief of staff for policy.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States. All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.”