King unable to attend Sochi opening ceremony, Cahow to replace her

Cahow

Caitlin Cahow

Billie Jean King announced Wednesday she would not be going to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday because her mother is ill.

Instead, Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey, will replace her.

Cahow was supposed to be part of the closing ceremony but now will not participate in that. No replacement has been named yet.

Cahow and King are both lesbian and were named to the Olympic delegation by President Barack Obama to make a statement about Russia’s new anti-gay law.

Cahow will be joined by Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. Boitano came out recently after he was named to the opening ceremony delegation.

Janet A. Napolitano, president of the University of California and former Secretary of Homeland Security, will lead the delegation. Michael A. McFaul, U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, and Robert L. Nabors, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, round out the delegation. On Tuesday, McFaul announced his resignation as ambassador effective the end of the month.

—  David Taffet

Out athletes plan to be seen, heard at Sochi Olympics

cheryl-maas-profile

Out Dutch Olympian Cheryl Maas

Tensions are high as the 2014 Winter Olympics prepare to get underway Thursday with figure skating and skiing events and then with the globally televised opening ceremony Friday. While there is a tremendous amount of anxiety over the possibility of a terrorist attack against the Games in Sochi, Russia, there is also considerable uncertainty around who might protest the country’s new anti-gay laws and how and when they might do so. Beyond the expectation that some might wear rainbow pins or hats that include “P6,” a reference to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination policy, there are hints of bands playing “YMCA” and one skater promising to “rip” into Russian President Vladimir Putin after she’s finished her competition.

There is even more uncertainty about what the Russian government will do to anyone who does protest or violate its laws by expressing some positive message about being gay.

In a conference call with reporters last week, the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, said athletes would “enjoy freedom of speech” at a press conference, but they could be punished if they do so during competition or on a medal podium. But a few days later, the chief executive of the Olympic Games in Russia, Dmitry Chernyshenko, seemed to contradict that statement.

“I don’t think [athletes] are allowed by the [Olympic] Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room,” said Chernyshenko. “What I would call the Sochi ‘speakers’ corner’ has been organized in Sochi city so that everybody can express themselves.”

The so-called “speakers’ corner” is a cordoned-off protest area six or seven miles from the site of the Olympics.

Outsports.com, a site devoted to news about LGBT athletes in both professional and amateur sports, says it has found only six openly gay athletes coming to the Sochi Olympics. All are women, none are American, and they represent an “an improbably low number” among the 2,500 athletes coming to the games.

The six include three speed skaters (Canadian Anatasia Bucsis and Dutch Ireen Wust and Sanne van Kerkhof), two snowboarders (Dutch Cheryl Maas and Australian Belle Brockhoff), and one Slovenian cross country skier (Barbara Jezeršek).

“Either GLBT athletes are uniquely bad at winter sports,” wrote the Outsports, “or dozens — perhaps 100 or more— must be competing in Sochi while in the closet.”

By Sunday, the site announced a seventh openly gay competitor: Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, who swims the men’s 50-meter freestyle. Liukkonen came out on Finnish television and said his family and teammates have taken the news well.

For U.S. television audiences interested in watching the Olympics for signs of LGBT demonstrations or visibility, there are two options: watch a condensed broadcast of the events each evening on NBC, which is covering the events, or watch live web streams at NBCOlympics.com, keeping in mind that Sochi is nine hours ahead of U.S. east coast time.

The following is a list of specific events at which the potential for LGBT visibility is higher than most:

—  Steve Ramos

Obama names gay delegates to official Olympic delegation

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Billie Jean King

President Barack Obama named the U.S. delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and included gays and lesbians in his selection.

One of the five members of the opening ceremony delegation is lesbian, and one of the five closing ceremony delegation members is lesbian. Then there is an ambiguously gay duo.

For the opening ceremony, tennis champ Billie Jean King will be among the official delegation. King has won 39 grand slam titles during her career and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi, and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,”the lesbian tennis star said.

Among the five opening ceremony delegates is Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano. He has denied he is gay and has refused to talk to the gay press over the years. When asked why most people assume figure skaters are gay, he answered, “Sequins and glitter.”

The opening ceremony takes place on Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russia.

Among the five official delegates to the closing ceremony is Caitlin Cahow who is an Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey. Cahow is lesbian.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is another of the five closing ceremony delegates. While lesbian rumors have swirled around her for years, Napolitano has said she’s not gay, just a single workaholic.

The closing ceremony will be held Feb. 23.

Russia enacted an anti-gay law this year that makes any demonstration of being gay illegal. Gays and lesbians could be imprisoned for any public indication of their sexual orientation. Having delegates many assume are gay should be an equally effective protest against the Russian anti-gay law as having openly gay delegates. Bigots won’t know who they’re actually supposed to discriminate against.

—  David Taffet

Lesbians launch super PAC

Laura Ricketts

Supporters include tennis great Billie Jean King, ‘Glee’ star Jane Lynch

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — As a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, her politically active family’s sole Democrat, and a sister with three brothers, Laura Ricketts is comfortable being the odd woman out.

But it has not escaped her notice that lesbians such as her are in the minority at political events for gay donors, whether it’s a White House reception or a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who hopes to become the first openly lesbian member of the U.S. Senate.

So Ricketts immediately embraced an idea by a fellow Chicago businesswoman who approached her a few months ago about creating a first-of-its kind political action committee to champion candidates and causes that appeal to lesbian voters.
LPAC, as the independent super PAC was christened, was launched Wednesday, July 11, with the freedom to spend unrestricted amounts of money for or against candidates.

“Being a woman and being gay is really a unique position in our society,” said Ricketts, a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Council and one of President Barack Obama’s fundraising bundlers. “I know in my experience of activism, oftentimes it makes a difference if something is women-focused. It’s likely to get the attention of women much more easily.”

LPAC’s fundraising goal for the 2012 election cycle is $1 million, a modest amount by the standards of many super PACS, including the conservative Ending Spending Action Fund founded by Ricketts’ father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

LPAC beneficiaries have not been finalized, although candidates such as Baldwin and campaigns to defeat ballot measures that would ban same-sex marriages or restrict access to abortions and birth control are likely to be recipients of donations.

However, the group’s aim to give lesbians an influential voice in mainstream politics is ground-breaking, said chairwoman Sarah Schmidt, a scion of the family behind Midwest petroleum distributor U.S. Venture Inc.

Unlike the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual candidates, and Emily’s List, which is dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights, LPAC plans to promote men and women from either major party regardless of their sexual orientations, as well as ballot initiatives.

“In my mind, there really was no downside here,” said Schmidt, a management consultant and philanthropist. “If it raises $5 million, amazing. But if it raises $500,000, we have still raised $500,000 for critical races and it’s being raised from lesbian leaders whose voices may not have been heard before.”

Along with Schmidt and Ricketts, the committee is led by veteran gay rights activist Urvashi Vaid and Alix Ritchie, former publisher of the Provincetown Banner. Jane Lynch and Billie Jean King also have pledged support.

“Members of the LGBT community are inspirational leaders and role models in every aspect of American life,” King said. “The formation of LPAC provides lesbians and the entire LGBT community a new, stronger voice and a real and respected seat at the table when politicians make policy that impacts our lives.”

—  John Wright