NFL Becomes Unlikely Hotbed for Marriage Debate
Over the past few months, the NFL has been at the center of the debate for gay marriage -- a debate that seemingly has nothing to do with the contact sport. Nevertheless, some professional football players have been more vocal about their support for marriage equality, which has sparked criticism from the conservative right.
Among those outspoken players are Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who both support same-sex marriage.
Now, it’s coming out that not all NFL stars endorsed our side of the issue. Matt Birk, who is a center for the Baltimore Ravens and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, recently wrote an op-ed in Minnesota’s Star Tribune. In the piece, Birk says he is going to "set the record straight about what the marriage debate is and is not about, and to clarify that not all NFL players think redefining marriage is a good thing.
"The union of a man and a woman is privileged and recognized by society as ’marriage’ for a reason, and it’s not because the government has a vested interest in celebrating the love between two people," Birk writes. "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.
The athlete goes on to say that children have a "right" to a mother and father and says that children can potentially suffer "long-term effects" of "not knowing or being loved by his or her mother or father."
According to Birk, redefining marriage will impact the "broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both." He does go on to say, however, that he is not homophobic and not opposed to "providing basic human rights to everyone" but also wants to preserve "marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman."
Minn. Attorney Weighs In
The football player notes that he believes marriage equality would not impact his own marriage specifically -- a thought that Riley Balling, an attorney in Prior Lake (a city 20 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis), doesn’t agree with.
Balling also wrote an op-ed piece for the Tribune last week and said that gay marriage would in fact specifically affect his own marriage.
"First, to explain, private actions have public effects," Balling writes. "All our actions, both private and public, define our identity. Being human, we are motivated to impart our identity to future generations. As we have seen, and understandably so, people in homosexual relationships are trying to change society to more readily embrace and promote their view of their identity. This is possible largely due to the disassociation between sexual relationships and procreation."
In his piece, Balling draws a line between the negative impacts of single parents and same-sex parents and claims gay marriage "falls short of producing safe environments for children" because it "reinforces changes to the marital definition." According to Balling, before the sexual revolution, society believed that the goals of marriage were to have children and raise them but today, "we have wavered from this traditional motivation," and "view marriage as a venue for self-fulfillment."
"For many of us who favor traditional marriage, marriage is about raising children in a healthy environment," Balling writes.
"Thus, any change to the definition of marriage affects our marriage. Our ’traditional’ marriages and the children they produce are our greatest source of happiness, and we desire that our children will live in a world that will promote their ability to make the same choices that brought us happiness."
(Re-)Enter Marriage-Equality Advocate Chris Kluwe
Chris Kluwe, a Viking punter who has been a long-time supporter of gay marriage, responded to Balling in the Pioneer Press.
The NFL star eloquently pointed out the flaws in Balling’s argument against marriage equality.
"You start off strong, with an opening salvo ostensibly promoting the rights of other groups to have their own views," Kluew writes, "but then, much like a Michael Bay plot, your argument starts careening off the rails. Your first mistake is what we would consider ’mind projection fallacy,’ where one considers the way he sees the world as the way the world really is."
Kluwe takes down Balling’s argument almost line-by-line and sharply criticizes him for his statements on how same-sex marriage can be detrimental to children and society.
"Which version of ’traditional marriage’ would you like to use Mr. Balling? Should we go back to ancient Israel and practice polygamy, with a woman’s only right that to own her own tent?" he writes. "Or should we use the ancient Greek definition of marriage, one more concerned with inheritance than love or procreation, one that would force a woman to divorce her current husband and marry a sibling if that was required to continue the family?"
The football player ends his response by writing that Balling did not articulate how marriage equality would affect his own marriage "in any concrete way." Kluwe says the attorney gives "vague generalizations with no proof. When it comes to ’the children,’ I can assure you that I *am* thinking of my children, and not just my children, but all the children they will come in contact with, and all the adults they will someday be; and it is my sincerest wish as a parent that I can raise them to be tolerant, to respect the free will of others, and above all, to see beneath the smug bigotry and oppression of those who would enslave the world to satisfy their own ugly lust for control."
Kluwe a Vocal Advocate
This isn’t the first time Kluwe has fired off on someone for their opposing views on same-sex marriage. The athlete defended the Ravens’ Brendon Ayanbandejo after he was criticized by Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democratic state legislator from Baltimore County who is against gay marriage, in a letter for his vocal endearment for marriage equality, EDGE reported.
"Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level," Kluwe wrote and added: "Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way, shape or form, affect your life?"
The pieces from the three men seemed to elicit strong reactions from readers of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Sentiment ran about 100 to 1 for Kluwe and agains Birk and Balling.
About Birk’s piece, one commenter wrote, "Would you feel the same if one of your children was gay and wanted to get married? Would you tell them that because it would do some abstract sort of harm, solely in your mind, they would have to be prevented from it?"
About Balling’s article, a reader wrote, "The author seems to be trying to create an argument against same-sex marriage that does not openly discriminate against gay and lesbian people, or openly advocate a religious belief. The author failed, however, to make a coherent point."
The argument is especially vociferous in Minnesota, where an amendment on the November ballot would ban same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution.