Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, two of the NFL's most outspoken advocates of gay marriage, have taken their fight to the highest court.
The two filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday that contends that California's Proposition 8, which says "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," is unconstitutional. The brief also discusses the important role that professional athletes have in promoting tolerance.
"Sports figures receive a celebrity status that influences a large majority of the American population," said the brief, according to multiple reports. "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."
Ayanbadejo, a 36-year-old who has been a key member of the Ravens' special teams unit the past five seasons, didn't immediately return a call from The Baltimore Sun seeking comment.
Proposition 8 was passed following the November 2008 election. A federal judge in the Ninth Circuit ultimately overturned the ruling, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
The case — Hollingsworth v. Perry — has been appealed to the Supreme Court and oral arguments will begin on March 26. The decision could have a major impact on same-sex marriage throughout the country.
"If the court reverses the Ninth Circuit, many professional athletes will take their cues from that," said the brief, according to reports. "And that will cause a ripple effect as even more people follow their role models, their leaders, their heroes. Those against same-sex marriage? They will use it as yet another tool to support their preconceived idea that gay Americans, who pay their taxes, serve in our military, and by every measure of societal participation are superior neighbors and citizens, are instead second class members of society. That they do not deserve the same rights as everyone else. That separate can be equal.
"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."
Ayanbadejo, who grew up in California, has never shied away from opportunities to back same-sex marriage. When Question 6 was passed in Maryland last November, Ayanbadejo said: "I'm so stoked. It's like I woke up and it was Christmas."