Sochi 2014 Olympics puts equal rights on the podium


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The U.S. president and vice president will not be attending the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Officials stated that due to his schedule, President Obama will remain in the U.S., while no specifics were given. Obama was not at the 2010 or 2012 Olympic Games either, so this should not come as a shock.

Plus, wavering relations between the U.S. and Russia influenced the decision to send openly gay athletes to the Winter Games.

If that is not a provocation in the name of justice and equality, I am not sure what qualifies. Due to her mother’s failing health, Billie Jean King withdrew from the group of U.S. delegates to visit Sochi last week.

The openly gay tennis champion’s mother passed away Friday, the day of the opening ceremony. Instead, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano and Olympic women’s ice hockey silver and bronze medalist Caitlin Cahow represent the U.S., along with a number of political delegates. Boitano came out as gay in December, just a couple of days after Obama announced the delegation team.

Talk about timing. “I think Americans know [why we’re here] and we’re proud to come from a country who supports tolerance and diversity and we stand strong,” Boitano said in a USA Today article.

Openly gay Cahow told The Advocate that the Olympics could potentially change attitudes and perceptions and Sochi offers an opportunity for athletes to make a difference.

I could not agree more. It is very sad that the U.S. cannot legalize gay marriage in all 50 United States (which rarely seem to unite these days); that a lesbian couple featured on a Disney Channel show has people in an uproar; that LGBTQIA community members continue to feel unsafe and unwelcome enough to stay closeted. But in Russia, things are worse. Anti-“propaganda” laws in the country aimed to “protect” children, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, outline punishments of sliding-scale fines and work suspension for Russian public officials.

Anything that promotes or simply displays “non-traditional sexual relations” is punishable by law. I hear “propaganda” and immediately think of Hitler, though the propaganda here is banned and not encouraged. I cannot speak for Russia, but Americans learn about the tragedy of the Holocaust in history class time and time again. Still, prejudice pervades our culture.

There is fear and an agenda against those who are different. The 2014 Sochi Olympics allow a platform to protest the injustice against Russian LGBT, and there is rallied support here in the U.S. for gay athletes, such as Google’s search bar logo during the games. Protests in Sochi also demonstrate distaste for the law. But here, in Shippensburg, do we have a distaste not just for anti-gay laws, but anti-gay mind frames?

Yes, LGBTQIA people are free to propagandize, but they cannot get married. Sneers and disdain often afflict homosexuals. Rights are not equal. While we are not the lawmakers that can remove the legal suppression, we are the people, and the people that can eliminate social oppression. How? Start with Hilary Duff’s public service announcement, “Think Before You Speak.”

The U.S. could use a lot of work in different areas. However, we can only move forward as a nation and better our county if it gets better for everyone, not just heterosexuals.


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