Obama Tells Gay Games: ‘The United States Stands with You’

By Lauretta Brown | August 11, 2014 | 2:46 PM EDT


Participants in the Gay Games 2014 held August 6-17 in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama made a surprise video appearance at the opening ceremonies of the International Gay Games in Cleveland on Saturday.

“You should know that the United States stands with you and for your human rights, just as our athletes stand with you on the field in these games,” Obama told those gathered in a videotaped message.

“Since 1982 the Gay Games have given Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender athletes and supporters around the world a chance to come together to compete, celebrate, and inspire others. It’s been remarkable to see the games thrive over the years,” Obama said.

“We’ve also seen America change in that time. Even since 2006, when the games were last held in the United States in my hometown of Chicago.”

“We’ve come a long way in our commitment to the equal rights of LGBT people here and around the world. I’m proud of my administration’s record and of the citizens who’ve helped to push for justice. And I know some of you have come from places where it requires courage, even defiance to come out, sometimes at great personal risk," he added.

“The very idea of America is that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or who you love, you can make it if you try. That’s who we are, and that’s who we should continually strive to be. But we’re also a country that loves competition, so let’s get these games underway,” the president concluded.

The Gay Games were founded in 1982 by Dr. Thomas Waddell. Waddell initially named the event the Gay Olympic Games, but the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) sued Waddell’s organization, San Francisco Arts and Athletics (SFAA), over whether the word "Olympic" was simply a generic term or whether the USOC had exclusive rights to its use.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case in the USOC’s favor in 1987. The name of the event was then changed to "Gay Games".

According to its website, The Gay Games are “open to all adults - regardless of sexual orientation or athletic ability.” Besides traditional track and field events, it includes DanceSport, Cheer, Figure Skating and Synchronized Swimming competitions in addition to concerts and a “Pink Flamingo Pool Show,” which appears to be a combination of synchronized swimming and a drag show.