LGBT Couples Are Making (Romantic!) History At The 2016 Rio Olympics

Photo: Instagram/@guardian
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Did you see this TOTALLY adorable Olympic proposal?!

It’s easy to be cynical about the Olympic Games. This year alone, we’ve had charges of corruption, doping scandals, and so many stories of social unrest in Rio. However, despite all that, there are some powerful things happening at the 2016 Olympics, in terms of LGBT rights and love, and it would be a shame if they were ignored. 

For example, women’s rugby debuted as an event at the Rio Olympics this year. Which is pretty cool (in and of itself), but the truly remarkable moment occurred after the Australian team won the gold medal on August 8th.

Because, at the end of the match, the Olympics hosted their first same-sex marriage proposal.


Isadora Cerullo, a Brazilian rugby player (her team had been knocked out by Japan earlier in the competition), was proposed to by her long-time girlfriend Marjorie Enya, who was working as a volunteer manager at the stadium.

Enya proposed to Cerullo (who said “Yes,” BTW) on the rugby pitch as friends held up heart-shaped balloons behind them. The story ignited across social media (even if the International Olympics Committee has been trying to take down any video of the proposal for “copyright” issues).

Interviewed afterwards, Enya told the press that, "As soon as I knew she was in the squad, I thought I have to make this special. The Olympic games can look like closure but, for me, it's starting a new life with someone. I wanted to show people that love wins."

It was a beautiful moment, a groundbreaking moment, where two proud lesbians truly showed how much the world has changed in just a few short years.

Remember that, at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, LGBT rights were a major concern. The Russian government had enacted laws that banned the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” which many people interpreted as a ban on open displays of LGBT affection.

There was a swift and defiant response from many members of the global community — President Obama included three openly gay athletes in the U.S. Olympic delegation — but the Olympics were still being held in a country that essentially criminalized being gay, lesbian, transgender, questioning, or any other “nontraditional” gender definition.

This is why moments like the marriage proposal in Rio are such a big deal. Not only did it occur, but Enya and Cerullo, both Brazilians, can legally be married in their home country. Even though Brazil doesn’t always have the most progressive attitude towards all members of the LGBT community — it has a long history of violence against transgendered people — it’s a huge step forward.

And it doesn’t just end there.

The 2016 Olympic Games are also witnessing the first married same-sex couple competing together on the same team.

Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh are a married lesbian couple who are both members of the 2016 British field hockey team. Their time at Rio is already going well — their team beat Australia on August 6th with a score of 2-1.

The two women, long-time Olympic athletes, met after 2008 Beijing Games and were married in 2013. Kate told the press, “We just want to show that it’s a normal thing. We’re not out there shouting it, it’s just part and parcel of who we are.”


So, YES, the Olympics are imperfect. The organizing committees are rife with corruption, they’re sometimes extremely detrimental to their host countries, and Matt Lauer WOULD NOT SHUT UP during NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony.

And, yes, while same-sex marriage is legal there, Brazil also has a reputation of sometimes being a violent and unwelcoming place for LGBT people.

But we can’t let that distract us from the change that is truly happening. There are proud, strong women who are breaking down boundaries at the 2016 Rio Games, who are completely redefining what it means to be a LGBT athlete for the rest of the world.

Because, at the Olympics, the whole world IS watching. That’s why it’s so inspiring that, on a stage so big, these women are showing a global audience that the LGBT community is firmly a part of the Olympic community and that’s never going to change.


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