Just weeks until Maryland voters decide on whether to legalize marriage equality, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo will take any opportunity he can get to lobby for same-sex couples and their families. "I'm a product of a biracial family," he told The Advocate Tuesday. "There was a time when people of two different races couldn't get married. [Marriage equality] was just a relevant issue that I needed to speak out about." And so he has, for the last few years, even though others in the league — and certain state politicians — weren't quite as comfortable with the idea.
Ayanbadejo spoke to The Advocate about his teammate Matt Birk, whose beliefs on marriage are the opposite, what he's taught his children about gay people, and why more NFL players are supportive of LGBT rights than ever before.
The Advocate: What spurred you to begin becoming actively involved in the fight for marriage equality, specifically in Maryland?
Brendon Ayanbadejo: I actually was just speaking out just in general, back in 2008 and 2009, when Obama was running for his first campaign, and it just seemed like it was a hot topic. It seemed like you were either against [marriage equality] if you were a Republican, or you kind of straddled the fence to get both sides if you were a Democrat. Obama didn't speak up for it until this year. So I just decided to just speak out at that point.
There was a lot of back-and-forth recently to your campaigning for marriage equality — first Emmett Burns, then the Minnesota Vikings' Chris Kluwe, and now your teammate Matt Birk. How have you felt watching all of that unfold?
It's been a firestorm. It's been a media gem, I guess. It's just interesting that we're talking about human rights and that people are speaking out against human rights in this day and age. So it's kind of remarkable that the people who are speaking out against human rights, they don't treat it like a human rights issue in any way. A lot of people say, "How dare you compare it to civil rights and human rights," even though that's exactly what it is. It's not a human issue to them. It's really just a preference issue or a sexual pleasure issue to them.