BALTIMORE – Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is making plays off the field as he continues to speak out in support of marriage equality, including teaming up with Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Monday Night Football watch party and fundraiser for Maryland’s same-sex marriage referendum.
Ayanbadejo and O’Malley spent more than two hours at Mother’s Federal Hill Grille on Monday night playing foosball, watching sports and mingling with supporters of the referendum.
Ayanbadejo, who was there with his wife and two young children, said the referendum comes down to equality and basic rights.
“It’s not a religious issue,” he said. “It’s just about fairness. If you treat one American one way, you have to treat them all the same way.”
O’Malley praised the football player for continuing to speak out on the heated political issue, even after Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County, wrote a letter requesting Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti stop Ayanbadejo from talking about the referendum in public. Burns later backed off his request.
But the linebacker isn’t the only Ravens player making his views on same-sex marriage known. His teammate and Ravens center Matt Birk spoke in favor of defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman in a commercial financed by Maryland Marriage Alliance, a group opposed to same-sex marriage. While the two Ravens players have yet to discuss the issue, Ayanbadejo said he looks forward to having that conversation down the road. But the locker room isn’t the place.
“We have our different values and different things that we do, but we don’t bring those values and opinions into our workplace,” he said. “In our workplace, we’re there to work together to win football games and be better football players and be better men.”
Buzz Merrick, 54, was one of 10 people who won tickets to the watch party after donating from $5 to $500 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality. The Baltimore resident said his support of the referendum stems from his daughter’s best friend, whose parents are two women who have been in a loving, committed relationship for 25 years.
“When this law passed, it just seemed like the logical thing for her and her family to share the same rights we do,” Merrick said. “They’re as married as anybody we know. We’re not trying to get special rights. It’s about human rights.”
It’s a view he shares with the governor, who spent the evening talking politics, drinking Guinness and cheering on the Baltimore Orioles in the baseball playoffs.
“Each of us deserves to be treated equally under the law,” O’Malley said. “And I think that most people can look at this issue through the eyes of the children of gay and lesbian couples and conclude that our laws should protect all individuals equally under the law.”