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In a cover story for Sports Illustrated, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first athlete in one of the four major professional sports leagues to come out as gay.

Former president Bill Clinton immediately saluted Collins in a statement.

I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.

It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.

President Clinton has evolved along with the country on the issue of marriage equality. He signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but has become a leading voice in the effort to overturn the law so that “all people no matter where they live can marry the people they love.”

Earlier this month, Clinton received GLAAD’s Advocate for Change Award. His speech detailed this country’s long effort to become “a more perfect union” and how his daughter Chelsea informed his own views on LGBT rights.

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