As the U.S. women's soccer team secured the World Cup final in a fitting Fourth of July weekend victory, the women who made up the team celebrated with jubilation. There was the standard screaming, jumping, and cheering, but also the chance to celebrate with loved ones. For some, this celebration came extra special at a time when the Supreme Court just recognized their marriage as nationally valid.
Star player Abby Wambach took the initial seconds after claiming victory to sprint to the stands and embrace her wife, Sarah Huffman. The happy couple has been married since 2013, but only recently has their marriage been legal in all 50 states. A long time supporter of gay rights, particularly in sports, Wambach emphasized the need for support from a spouse when working to overcome the challenges involved in elite sports.
When celebrating a victory such as the World Cup, she argues that every thought about equality and the fight for LGBT rights goes out the window. That moment isn't about publicity, campaigns, or the overall movement; it's about sharing a precious moment with the one you love. In a recent interview with anti-marriage equality reporter, Chris Broussard, Wambach was clear in defending her post-victory kiss, stating, "I have never been ashamed of my sexuality. Ever. I am not going to scream it from the rooftops, but I sure want to share that moment with my better half.”
While Wambach's victory kiss drew the eye of the public, she is not the only member of the U.S. women's soccer team to be out and proud. Midfielder and vocal LGBT activist Megan Rapinoe identifies as gay, while recently, defender Ali Krieger stated that she finally feels "totally confident, comfortable, and free with my sexuality."
Rapinoe has been a long-time advocate for LGBT youth in sports, working with the the program Athlete Ally to speak out against anti-LGBT propositions in sports and encourage her fellow teammates, coaches, and organizers to do the same. When asked about her involvement in Athlete Ally, Rapinoe stated, "I’m proud to be part of a women’s soccer community that believes in the principles of respect and inclusion." Even when not actively advocating for LGBT rights, Rapinoe is never afraid to express herself. In a recent SportsCenter interview, when asked to describe herself in one word, she proudly wrote "gaaaaaay" and laughingly shared the moment with the audience.
In addition to the players, coach Jillian Ellis identifies as gay and has a daughter, Lily, with her partner Betsy Stephenson. The family moved to Miami last year when Stephenson experienced a career change, which opened the opportunity for Ellis to take on the role as head coach for the U.S. team.
Role models such as these offer the LGBT community the opportunity to show that love is love, no matter what the gender. Laura Clise, board member for Athlete Ally, perfectly summed up this impact in a recent interview, where she recognized Wambach's embrace with her wife, then observed a similar exchange between striker Sydney Leroux and her husband, and stated “It was wonderful to see the players be who they are and acknowledge the support of their partners … in a very public, open setting."