Raven Matt Birk joins fight against same-sex marriage

Ravens center Matt Birk is expected to film a video this week opposing Maryland's new same-sex marriage law, making him the second player on the team to take a public stand on the referendum.

Birk, a Roman Catholic and father of six, is pressing a view opposite that of teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo, the Ravens linebacker who is supporting the new law.

"I took a stance like other guys have done before me," Birk said Monday at team headquarters in Owings Mills. "Obviously, we all have opinions. … It's certainly a very inflammatory, very hot topic, because it's important."

The video signals a new phase in the campaign against same-sex marriage, which until now has been focused mostly on some churches and online via fundraising emails. Supporters, on the other hand, have issued a steady stream of news releases and YouTube videos with prominent people endorsing their cause.

"We saved our videos for October. We'll start doing more of them," said Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which plans to release the Birk video as soon as Wednesday.

The Baltimore Sun reported last week that both sides have reserved time with television stations to air commercials starting this month.

Birk, who grew up in St. Paul, Minn., is also active in that state's marriage debate and recorded a 31/2-minute Web-only video for the Minnesota Catholic Conference that was released Monday. He also wrote an opinion piece was published Sunday in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"With good reason, government recognizes marriages and gives them certain legal benefits so they can provide a stable, nurturing environment for the next generation of citizens: our kids," Birk wrote.

Minnesota voters will decide in November whether the state should adopt a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Maryland, Washington state and Maine all have referendum questions this fall that would legalize same-sex marriage.

A poll conducted last week for The Sun found that likely Maryland voters support same-sex marriage 49 percent to 39 percent. Support was weaker in the greater Baltimore area, with 45 percent of those polled in favor of the new law.

Last month Ayanbadejo, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, was in the news when a state legislator urged the Ravens to muzzle the football player's opinion.

Team owner Steve Bisciotti refused, and Del. Emmett C. Burns, a Baltimore County Democrat, backed down.

Birk said he spoke with Ayanbadejo Friday about the opinion piece so his teammate would not be "blindsided" by it. "I like Brendon, and I respect him a lot," Birk said.

Ayanbadejo is scheduled to host a fundraiser with Gov. Martin O'Malley for same-sex marriage next Monday in Baltimore. In an email to The Sun on Monday, Ayanbadejo said he is "sure" that he and Birk will discuss their views on same-sex marriage "sooner or later."

Birk, a Harvard graduate, has also been active opposing abortions. He participated in an anto-abortion march in Annapolis, according to the Catholic Review, which is published by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Monday he is not worried about the political activism in the team's locker room this year.

"I don't discourage it or encourage it," Harbaugh said. "As long as everybody respects everybody else's opinion, that's the main thing. We talk about politics, religion, all those kind of things, movies, music. It's OK to have an opinion."



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