WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- President Obama Tuesday included two openly gay women to the U.S. delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
While the president made no mention of the sexual orientation of the delegation members, his decision to send retired tennis champion Billy Jean King and Olympic silver medalist hockey player Caitlin Cahow to the ceremonies appeared to be an oblique message to Russia, which has come under criticism by gay rights organizations for its anti-gay laws.
The Russian Parliament recently passed a law banning what lawmakers called "propaganda" about "non-traditional sexual relations." However, President Vladimir has stated gay athletes and spectators will not face discrimination at the Sochi Games in February.
International Olympic Committee officials have said a special protest zone will be set up during the games, Time magazine said.
Obama will not attend the Games himself.
Named to the Feb. 7 opening ceremony delegation along with King were: Janet Napolitano, Obama's former homeland security secretary who recently became president of the University of California; Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia; Robert Nabors, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy; and Brian Boitano, Olympic figure skating gold medalist.
Besides Cahow, the Feb. 23 closing ceremony delegation will include: McFaul; William Burns, deputy secretary of state; Bonnie Blair, multiple Olympic gold medalist speed skater; and Eric Heiden, also a multiple Olympic gold medalist speed skater.