imageEnglish rugby star and gay-rights supporter Ben Cohen is kicking off his acceptance tour in May with a series of events in Atlanta with the Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club.

“We are incredibly honored that Ben has chosen Atlanta to launch his first US tour,” Gary Durden, president of Atlanta Bucks RFC, says in a press release announcing the events. “As one of the first gay rugby teams in the US, we have long advocated for more inclusion in the world of sports. Having a champion like Ben Cohen stand up with us and for us is amazing.”

The gay squad announced the local events on Tuesday as part of Cohen’s larger “The Acceptance Tour 2010.” They run May 19-22 and include a public meet-and-greet with Cohen, a private cocktail reception and charity auction, sessions with regional rugby clubs and autograph sessions.

“I believe that every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love and be loved and to be happy,” Cohen says about the acceptance tour, which plans stops in the U.S. and U.K. “That’s what we all want. I am in a privileged position to be able to spread some important messages across the globe – and that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Cohen has spoken out on issues of equality, acceptance and gay suicides, including in a YouTube video (above) last October about teen suicides. Cohen, 32, spent the bulk of his professional rugby career with the Northhampton Saints, though he was recently released from the Sale Sharks after less than two years with the club.

“Atlanta is a city built on equality and respect for diversity, including one of America’s largest and most vibrant LGBT communities,” Cohen says in a prepared statement about the tour. “I am honored to launch the tour in Atlanta and with the Bucks.”

Cohen became a sex symbol among many gay fans with his 2010 calendar that offered him in shirtless and sometimes wet poses in a lockeroom and a spread in Attitude. Last year, Cohen donated a signed jockstrap to support a U.K.-based gay non-profit.

Tickets for Cohen’s Atlanta events go on sale March 28.

The Bucks, which hosted Winter Rugby 101 in January, plan another skills session on March 19. The club’s limited schedule this season includes an April 2 road trip to play the Washington, D.C. Renegades.

The Bucks’ popular Purple Dress Run fundraiser is set for April 30. Some 150 people wearing purple dresses, bonnets, heels and even running shoes stormed the streets of Midtown during last year’s event. (View photos)