EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe offered his outspoken support of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo as they became two of the more prominent athletes to speak up for same-sex marriage rights. Now the players are joining forces and helping push the cause to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kluwe's and Ayanbadejo's names were part of an amicus curiae brief filed in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which is attempting to have ruled unconstitutional the State of California's Proposition 8 that bans gay marriage in California. A federal judge previously struck down Proposition 8 in a circuit ruling and an appeal of that Holingsworth v. Perry ruling has sent the case to the Supreme Court.
Kluwe and Ayanbadejo believe a ruling against Proposition 8 by the Supreme Court would be a momentous turn in the ongoing struggle for same-sex rights and hope their support will help the cause as well as generate more tolerance and acceptance among professional athletics.
"This Court, incredibly enough, has a central role in that process," the brief states. "Your stance, your legal reasoning, will be used by countless people, including athletes, to justify their actions. People are not wholly unplugged. They pay attention to what is going on in the world, what is going on in politics, and what is going on in the law. Professional athletes are citizens of this country just like everyone else, and just like everyone else, the decisions of the Supreme Court are powerful indicators of acceptable behavior. If the Court reverses the Ninth Circuit, many professional athletes will take their cues from that. And that will cause a ripple effect as even more people follow their role models, their leaders, their heroes
"The amici hope that our support for marriage equality here will matter both with the Court and with people looking for confirmation that it is okay to treat other good people as equals. We know for a certainty that this Court's decision truly will matter, and in a tremendous way for many people's lives."
With the two players speaking out last fall, Minnesota (where Kluwe plays for the Vikings) and Maryland (where Ayanbadejo plays for the Ravens) voters each made landmark decisions in support of gay marriage. Minnesota voted down an amendment that would have limited marriage rights to heterosexual couples, and Maryland agreed to new legislation that approved gay marriage.
The two became linked in August when Maryland delegate Emmett Burns wrote a scathing letter to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, basically telling Bisciotti he should quiet his players and they should stick to football after the linebacker offered his public support. Kluwe then wrote a profanity-laced letter to Burns in support of Ayanbadejo's stance that was published on Deadspin.com and received national recognition. Kluwe has made several national appearances in support of same-sex rights since August.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case March 26. Kluwe and Ayanbadejo hope their status as NFL players can add credibility to the argument to strike down Proposition 8.
"Sports figures receive a celebrity status that influences a large majority of the American population," the brief states. "For far too long, professional sports have been a bastion of bigotry, intolerance, and small-minded prejudice toward sexual orientation, just as they had been to racial differences decades earlier. That is finally changing, and changing drastically. The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA, at the league level, team level, and individual level, are finally speaking out against homophobia and intolerance of LBGTQ individuals. More and more of us realize that using demeaning slur words like ******,' queer,' and gay' can have serious, negative consequences
"Not necessarily consequences for us. Instead, consequences for the children and adults who look up to us as role models and leaders. Consequences for children and adults who mimic our behavior when they interact with others. And consequences that can be severe, long-lasting, and not infrequently lead to suicide and other serious harm. America has an ideal exhibited imperfectly in the original Constitution and more perfectly in the Fourteenth Amendment that all should be treated equally for what they are. When our government discriminates properly, it does so, not based on what we inherently are, but instead to regulate our negative actions against each other. Courts exist because of men who long ago placed individual freedom as an ultimate principle for their country to correct government action that takes away freedoms when that action is motivated by fear and prejudice rather than by evidence and logic. This Court should correct Proposition 8's action to remove marriage rights from same-sex couples because, as the district court and the Ninth Circuit majority so carefully explained, the advocates of Proposition 8provided no evidence-based rationaleas opposed to one based on fear and prejudice for treating LBGTQ citizens differently with respect to marriage."
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.