Lawmaker backs off Ayanbadejo criticism

Sept. 10, 2012 at 2:02 PM
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BALTIMORE, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The Maryland lawmaker who came under fire for telling a Baltimore Ravens player he should keep quiet about supporting gay marriage has reversed himself.

Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore-area Democrat, wrote to Ravens ownership last week, asking that they tell linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo to stop his public support of the state's gay marriage ballot initiative, saying a football player had no place in the debate.

The letter sparked outrage from several quarters, most notably, fellow football player Chris Kluwe, the punter for the Minnesota Vikings. Kluwe's profanity-laced, impassioned response prompted a new round of media coverage for the issue. Kluwe, himself an outspoken gay marriage advocate, tore into Burns for implying Ayanbadejo should not be allowed to speak freely about his beliefs.

"It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to free speech. To call that 'hypocritical' would be to do a disservice to the word," Kluwe wrote.

The sharp response prompted Burns to back down.

"Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights," he said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. "And I have my First Amendment rights. ... Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds."

Ayanbadejo has also received the support of some teammates, 10 of whom he said have offered their help. He said the attitude toward homosexuality by football players has changed drastically from the stereotypical "snickers in the locker room ... faster than I ever thought it would happen."

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