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Gays In U.S. Olympic Delegation Will Send Message To Russia

Tennis great Billie Jean King and ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow are certainly qualified to be members of the U.S. delegation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

One is a winner of 39 "grand slam" tennis titles and has been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The other is a two-time Olympic medal winner with Team USA.

Their inclusion, though, is also being seen as a message to Russia "for passing national laws banning 'gay propaganda' " and other actions it has taken that have angered those who advocate for LGBT rights, The Associated Press says. King and Cahow are openly gay.

In addition, the White House is sending a signal by announcing who will not be attending the games, NPR's Tamara Keith tells our Newscast Desk. "The delegation to the games won't include the president or the vice president or their wives," she says. "It also won't include any current cabinet members."

"This marks the first Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Summer Games that a U.S. president, vice president, first lady or former president has not been a member of the delegation for the opening ceremony, which will be Feb. 7 in Sochi," USA Today says.

While the White House says President Obama's schedule precludes him from going to Sochi, LGBT advocates are linking the decision to the Russian government's views toward gays.

Human Rights First "applauds the decision not to include President Obama and the first lady or Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden in the official delegation, a decision that sends a powerful message to the Russian government of the Obama administration's opposition to Russia's crackdown against human rights."

Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. White House Says It Wouldn't Wait To Send Such A Message:

Asked at today's news briefing if he would "wave off" the interpretation that the White House is seeking to send a message, spokesman Jay Carney did not specifically do that — but said it isn't "a message we would wait to send through this manner." The president, he said, "has been very clear" that he finds Russian policy on gays to be offensive.

The U.S. delegation, Carney said, "reflects the diversity of this country, the strength of this country ... as well as the nature of our civic activism and government service."

"In the selection of this delegation ... we are sending the message that the United States is a diverse place," Carney added.

We wonder what everyone thinks about these decisions. Note, this isn't a scientific survey of public opinion. It's just a question.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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