As our American Olympic delegation prepares to compete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea this week, figure skater Adam Rippon, who made history as the first openly gay athlete to ever qualify for the Winter Olympics, expressed outrage at the news that Vice President Mike Pence will lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremonies.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
Concerned over the swift backlash that he received from Rippon, Pence’s staff attempted to set up a meeting with the Olympic figure skater prior to the opening ceremonies. Rippon, however, rebuffed the Vice President’s offer, opting not to meet with him.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said. “But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” he added. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”
In last month’s interview with USA Today Sports, Rippon made headlines with his full-throated denunciation of the Vice President given his sordid history with LGBT rights.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” he explained. “To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
The Olympic figure skater further claimed that, should be be invited to the White House for a post-Olympic reception, he would reject any such invitation.
“I won’t go because I don’t think somebody like me would be welcome there. I know what it’s like to go into a room and feel like you’re not wanted there,” he explained. “If I talked to people the way that President Trump talks to people, my mom would kick my ass.”
Pence, the fierce conservative and virulent homophobe, has been outspoken in his opposition to gay rights. He signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers for religious purposes. He has signaled support for the decidedly inhumane practice known as conversion therapy, has voted to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, and has claimed that LGBT military service amounts to “social experimentation.”
Perhaps Pence should look to Rippon for a lesson in what the true values of the United States are.
“What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”
Rippon may not yet have competed, but he’s already a hero to every American who values equality, tolerance, and love.