Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Continues Marriage Equality Advocacy He Began with the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign
“Whether it was women’s rights or interracial marriage or civil rights, whatever it was, it’s all led to where we are today. And now it’s gay rights. And it’s all the same issue even though they’re all different things. They’re all predicated on equality and treating people fairly. So I just see it from that standpoint. I see it a little bit broader than everybody else, but there’s always been someone that’s been discriminated against. And we’re just trying to tackle one issue at a time. Right now it’s the time for gay rights and it’s time for them to be treated equally and for everybody be treated fairly, in the name of love.”
–Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo
Across the country, homophobic and transphobic legislators are trying to prevent legal and social progress for LGBTQ people. Sometimes, their rhetoric is so inane it actually furthers the cause of equality. Take Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns. Del. Burns, a Democrat who is also a Baptist minister, never fails to shock and awe. A few years ago, he told the Washington Post, “I don’t want to live next door to people who have a same-sex relationship and have children and have my children playing with them.”
Or try this gem on for size:
“Now, a lot of people have accused me of being homophobic. I’m not. If homosexuals want to go at it and do their thing, that’s fine. But don’t sashay your way up to the altar and demand marriage.”
“Go at it?” “Sashay?” Seriously?
Thankfully, a majority of Maryland legislators don’t subscribe to Del. Burns’ poppycock. Earlier this year, the legislature voted for a marriage equality bill that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law. But opponents like Del. Burns worked to gather enough signatures to prevent the law from going into effect until it is approved this November at the ballot. LGBTQ Marylanders are on the defensive, hoping that voters won’t reject the newly-passed marriage equality bill.
Marylanders are now stepping up to the plate to support the measure. From Republican Ken Melman to Democratic Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, people are encouraging Marylanders to vote YES on Question 6. One such “Marylander for Marriage Equality” is Brendon Ayanbajeo, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Mr. Ayanbadejo first filmed a short video advocating marriage equality in 2011 for the Standing on the Side of Campaign YouTube Channel. To date, it is the most widely watched video the campaign has done. That year, he also sent a note to every member of the Maryland General Assembly urging them to vote for the measure.
This year, Mr. Ayanbadejo has been even more outspoken in his work with the newly formed Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition. While the media has paid some attention to a new video he filmed, it wasn’t until Del. Burns took notice of Mr. Ayanbadejo’s advocacy and wrote a letter calling on the team’s owner to silence him that the footballer’s support became the talk of the nation.
Thankfully, Del. Burns’ attempts to intimidate Ayanbadejo backfired. Fellow National Football League (NFL) player Chris Kluwe, a punter for the Minnesota Vikings, penned a searing open letter to Del. Burns that quickly went viral. Soon, media outlets from New York to California were reporting on support for marriage equality within the testosterone-laced world of football. “Players’ Support of Gay Marriage Alters N.F.L. Image,” declared the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Del. Burns was roundly criticized—the Baltimore Sun even called him unfit to serve. Within days, Del. Burns backed down, saying he didn’t intend to interfere with Mr. Ayanbadejo’s First Amendment rights.
The Ravens’ owners also backed up Ayanbadejo. “The Ravens reached out to me,” Ayanbadejo said in a Huffington Post interview. “[Ravens president] Dick Cass and [Ravens] owner Steve Bisciotti said, ‘Brendon, you’re a great person. Keep doing your thing. We believe in you. This is not a team that believes in discrimination in any way, shape, or form. You have this tremendous platform here. Use it. And go ahead and continue to be you, and grow and shape and change the world while you have the ability to do it.’”
As we say here at the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, Brendon Ayanbadejo truly embodies courageous love.More >
Last month, Norfolk, Virginia held its annual “Out in the Park” Pride festival with an estimated 17,000 attendees. The Unitarian Church of Norfolk (UCN), the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP) in Newport News, and the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists (WUU) joined together to spread the news about Unitarian Universalism and UU LGBT history.
In 2011, our table at Pride was bare, staffed only by members of UCN, and had a homemade cardstock display with only a few brochures. We had very few visitors.
This year, we had tablecloths, professionally prepared banners and signs with UU chalices, and a professionally done LGBT timeline depicting UU LGBT history. And beads; lots of beads. After a while, the UU booth became a magnet for Pride attendees. Visitors not only received our ‘special’ rainbow beads, but many also talked with UCN Minister Cyndi Simpson or other volunteer representatives from the UU congregations in Newport News and Williamsburg. One young adult visitor kept exclaiming to her friend, “I found it! This is MY church! This is MY church! I’m a Unitarian”! A very good time was had by all.
Much appreciation and world of thanks to our Rev. Cyndi Simpson and all the volunteers from UUFP, WUU, and UCN who gave their time and energy to showing love, care, and concern for the LGBTQ community of Hampton Roads. Thank you all!
This post was contributed by J Kila Chong, Office Administrator at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk (UU). More >
In her book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong encourages us to intentionally study one nation, culture, or religion different from our own. In response to her call, I decided to learn about Islam. The Unitarian Universalist Association’s participation in the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign has provided me with a number of opportunities to get to know American Muslims. I have attended symposia, town hall meetings, news conferences, and interfaith gatherings involving members of the American Muslim community–a community that reflects the multicultural diversity that my faith, Unitarian Universalism, longs for.
Through these encounters, I have also witnessed the pain that occurs in this community as a result of stereotyping, targeting, and discrimination. Mosques are vandalized, people speak hatred against Muslims, and they are terrorized in their own country. Yet Muslim American communities were among the first to stand in solidarity with those of Sikh faith after the recent attack at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Let us heed their example and reach out to people of different faiths as neighbors and act in solidarity to stop the violence and bias they suffer.
Two of our partner organizations are releasing resources this fall to help interfaith communities be in solidarity with American Muslim communities:
On Monday, October 22 at 4:00pm ET, Shoulder-to-Shoulder will provide a webinar for clergy and lay leaders about addressing bias and discrimination against American Muslims called “Engaging the Faithful: Coordinating Multi-Faith Partnerships to End Anti-Muslim Sentiment.” RSVP for the webinar by emailing email@example.com with your full name and affiliation.
- The Interfaith Alliance will launch an FAQ to dispel the misperceptions about our American Muslim neighbors. Click here to sign up to receive this resource after the September 20 launch date.
Tolerance is not enough if our goal is to stand on the side of love with people who are targeted because of their religious identity. Compassion–the capacity to connect to the suffering of other people–and interfaith solidarity are necessary if we are to be the country we claim to be. I hope that the SSL community will take the opportunities provided by Shoulder-to-Shoulder and the Interfaith Alliance to learn about American Muslims and Islam so we can open our hearts and minds more fully to the richness of this and other minority faith communities.
Multicultural Growth & Witness Director
Unitarian Universalist Association
The message above went out on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here. More >
The Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) has been hard at work witnessing for love justice in the Great Lakes State this summer.
On Tuesday evening, August 14th, a public meeting was held in Bloomfield Township to consider a proposal for a local Muslim Cultural Center. Though many attendees were opposed to the plan, MUUSJN mobilized activists from four Unitarian Universalist congregations to demonstrate on behalf of religious tolerance. They were part of an interfaith coalition that submitted testimony urging a local Planning Commission to make decisions based on respect for religious diveristy rather than Islamophobia.
Their witness received coverage in several newspapers, including this article in the Arab American News that showed real appreciation for the interfaith witness.
Wednesday, August 15th marked the first day that young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children could apply for deferred action. That day, Unitarian Universalists in Detroit and Lansing displayed solidarity with young Dreamers and their allies by holding Standing on the Side of Love signs at press conferences held in each city. Several UUs also volunteered at special workshops to assist dreamers to determine their eligibility for deferred action status. The program allows young, undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and gives them two years immunity from deportation.
MUUSJN Director Randy Block says of the event, “I was touched that Cindy Estrada, UAW International Vice President, asked if she could hold up my Standing on the Side of Love sign that said ‘Dreamers Deserve A Chance for the American Dream.’ Of course, I said yes.”More >
We all know how much is at stake in the upcoming election at the national, state, and local levels. Regressive policies and corporate control oppress people on the margins and disenfranchise the vulnerable among us. Nevertheless, you can use your voice to lift up the issues that affect our communities.
The outcome of an election is determined by who speaks up and who turns out. Join the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Standing on the Side of Love, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the UU State Advocacy Networks for the “Take Love to the Polls: Elections 2012 Webinar” to learn about what is at stake this season and how you, as a person of conscience and faith, can work with your congregation, community partners, and other allies to help level the political playing field this election season!
The “Take Love to the Polls: Elections 2012 Webinar” will be held Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm ET. Space is limited—click here to reserve your spot today!
Religious groups play a prophetic role in public life by calling attention to oppression, demanding change, and holding leaders and institutions accountable for their actions and policies. For Unitarian Universalists, participation in the democratic process is specifically held up as an act of faith in the Fifth Principle. You can help register members of your community to vote, get out the vote, and stop voter suppression. Most importantly, you can partner with community groups, organizations on college campuses, and statewide networks to lift up the voices of those in our society who are historically under-represented and help empower those who are most affected by regressive policies. By helping people participate in the democratic process, we show them we care that their voices get heard.
Please join me in standing on the side of love this election season. Click here to register for the “Take Love to the Polls: Elections 2012 Webinar.”
Inspiring the words of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address,” Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said that democracy is “a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” Join us to learn how we can work together this election season to help make that a reality.
Associate for Grassroots Mobilization
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
The message above went out on Thursday, August 30, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here. More >