After drawing national attention for his attempt to muzzle a football player who supported gay rights, a Maryland delegate walked back his position Sunday and said Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo should be allowed to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage.
"Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights," Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, said in a telephone interview. "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."
Burns, who is also the pastor and founder of the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Woodlawn, has been under fire for a letter he wrote last month urging Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to "take the necessary action" and order Ayanbadejo to "cease and desist" his advocacy of gay rights.
. . . Ayanbadejo penned a column in The Huffington Post explaining his support, taped a web-only video for the Maryland same-sex marriage campaign and — most recently — offered a pair of tickets to Monday's season-opening game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium as a fundraising incentive.
TV host Ellen DeGeneres, political analyst Keith Olbermann and fellow NFL player Chris Kluwe were among the stars and media personalities who rushed to Ayanbadejo's defense in the past few days, while no major groups added their voice to Burns' cause. The Ravens ownership also publicly supported their player.
Though the Burns letter came from an opponent of same-sex marriage, the overwhelmingly negative reaction to it and the even the timing seem to have handed supporters a win. Ayanbadejo said he has a stack of invitations to speak to the national press this week — including an offer from DeGeneres to fly to California for a live appearance on her show.
Maryland will be one of four states to vote on same-sex marriage in November. The issue has never been upheld by referendum, though advocates point to positive poll numbers and high-profile endorsements as evidence momentum is on their side.
All together now - HA! HA!
Hat tip to Facebook friend Michael Barber