The first two openly gay US winter Olympians have taken a dig at Vice President Mike Pence over his record on gay rights.
Gus Kenworthy, a freestyle skier, shared a photo of himself planting a kiss on the side of Adam Rippon’s face and quipped “eat your heart out, Pence!”
Mr Pence, who is known for his conservative views on marriage equality and LGBT+ rights, has been accused of showing support for the widely discredited practice of gay conversion therapy.
“The Opening Ceremony is a wrap and the 2018 Winter Olympic Gaymes are officially under way!” Mr Kenworthy said on Instagram.
“I feel incredibly honoured to be here in Korea competing for the US and I’m so proud to be representing the LGBT+ community alongside this amazing guy! Eat your heart out, Pence. #TeamUSA #TeamUSGay.”
Mr Kenworthy also shared three photos of himself with Mr Rippon on Twitter, saying: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”
Mr Rippon, the 2016 US men’s figure skating champion, responded to Mr Kenworthy’s tweet by saying: “I am 1000 per cent here for this new and beautiful friendship.”
“Representing the USA is one of the greatest honours of my life and being able to do it as my authentic self makes it all so much sweeter,” Mr Rippon said during an earlier tweet which he ended with a rainbow flag to represent the LGBT+ community.
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Mr Kenworthy’s jibe at Mr Pence comes in the wake of heightened tensions between the Vice President and Olympians over the Republican’s perceived prejudice to the gay community.
After Mr Rippon condemned the decision to use Mr Pence to lead the 2018 US Olympic delegation to South Korea in an interview with USA Today, Alyssa Farah, press secretary for the Vice President, denied the allegation Mr Pence supports conversion therapy.
“The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact. But despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the US athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang,” Ms Farah said in a statement.
“Resources should be directed towards those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour,” Mr Pence wrote on his congressional campaign website back in 2000.
Some interpreted the statement as evidence he supported gay conversion therapy, but a spokesperson for Mr Pence told the New York Times in November 2016 that the Indiana-born politician does not support the practice.
While serving as governor of Indiana Mr Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that permitted businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers – citing religious freedom. The politician later signed an amendment that prevented the law from being used to discriminate against LGBT+ customers.
Mr Pence, a devout Christian, is known for his anti-abortion views. He has previously vowed to relegate Roe vs Wade – the landmark Supreme Court decision which legalised abortion nationwide in 1973 – to the “ash heap of history, where it belongs”.
Mr Rippon, who came out as gay in late 2015, reportedly turned down a meeting with Mr Pence earlier this week.
Mr Pence hit back by dismissing reports Mr Rippon rejected an invitation to meet him in protest against his position on homosexuality. The Vice President claimed he had never extended an invitation to him and labelled reports “fake news”.