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Monday, October 1, 2012
Ravens' civil debate on same-sex marriage

By Jamison Hensley

Two Ravens players are have differing views when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Last month, after a Maryland legislator condemned Brendon Ayanbadejo's support for gay marriage, the Ravens linebacker responded by saying it's "an equality issue."

"There was a time when women didn't have rights. Black people didn't have rights," he said. "Right now, gay rights is a big issue and it's been for a long time. We're slowly chopping down the barriers to equality."

On Sunday, Ravens center Matt Birk wrote an editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in support of preserving marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Birk, a former Vikings lineman and Minnesota native, wrote: "Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children -- the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both."

This blog isn't about whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong. The reason for this piece is to show football players have opinions beyond getting rid of replacement officials. Too often, players are seen as trash-talking bullies who are lauded for their brawn, not brains.

Ayanbadejo and Birk show that players can engage in commentary on such a hot-button political topic. Maryland voters are considering whether to legalize it, and Minnesota voters will decide whether to ban it. Ayanbadejo and Birk aren't the only NFL players voicing their opinion on the matter. After the Maryland legislator incident, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe defended Ayanbadejo.

Whether you're for or against same-sex marriage, you have to appreciate Birk's call for civility when debating the matter.

“People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as ‘bigots’ and ‘homophobic,'" Birk wrote. "Aren't we past that as a society? … Attempting to silence those who may disagree with you is always un-American, but especially when it is through name-calling, it has no place in respectful conversation.”

Birk and Ayanbadejo shouldn't just be applauded for expressing their viewpoints, but also the manner in which they decided to do so.