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.