Baltimore Raven's center Matt Birk is attracting attention over a controversial article he published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In it, the player offered his support for free speech and voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Birk opened the piece by issuing his support for the National Football League's policy that allows players to share their personal views on matters of social and political importance. However, he quickly dove into the debate surrounding gay marriage, highlighting what he sees as inconsistencies and a false framing of the issue as a whole.
"But the conversation during the last few weeks on the subject of same-sex marriage has told a different story -- one that appears to be drawing a false connection between supporting true American values like free speech and the institution of marriage, our most fundamental and important social institution," he wrote.
The purpose of his article is plainly laid out in its third paragraph, in which Birk explains that he intends to discuss "what the marriage debate is and is not about" and clarify the fact that not all NFL players believe that gay marriage is a "good" societal phenomenon. At the center of the debate, Birk claims that marriage between a man and a woman is "privileged and recognized by society as 'marriage'" because of the institution's value to children. He explains:
Children have a right to a mom and a dad, and I realize that this doesn't always happen. Through the work my wife and I do at pregnancy resource centers and underprivileged schools, we have witnessed firsthand the many heroic efforts of single mothers and fathers -- many of whom work very hard to provide what's best for their kids.
But recognizing the efforts of these parents and the resiliency of some (not all, unfortunately) of these kids, does not then give society the right to dismiss the potential long-term effects on a child of not knowing or being loved by his or her mother or father. Each plays a vital role in the raising of a child.
Birk went on to lament the fact that "marriage is in trouble," though he said that gay unions have little to do with the problem. At the heart of the issue is a larger societal issue, he contends -- a "do it if it feels good" mentality that has taken prevalence. As a result, marriage, Birk claims, has been impacted by "no-fault divorce, adultery, and the nonchalant attitude" that exists toward the institution.
Building upon his belief that gay nuptials aren't the root cause of the problems America faces when it comes to marriage, the football player expressed fears, regardless, that same-sex marriage will impact his children. -- members of the nation's next generation.
"Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society," Birk wrote. "As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both."
In his attempt to reasonably discuss his views on the issue, the Ravens center derided those who label people opposed to gay unions as "bigots" and "homophobic." He called assaults on free speech, particularly when it comes to attempts to silence those opposed to same-sex marriage, "un-American" and dismissed the name-calling that often results.
In concluding, Birk made appeals to people on both sides of the debate, while sticking closely to his contention that gay marriage simply isn't beneficial for society:
A defense of marriage is not meant as an offense to any person or group. All people should be afforded their inalienable American freedoms. There is no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman.
I hope that in voicing my beliefs I encourage people on both sides to use reason and charity as they enter this debate. I encourage all Americans to stand up to preserve and promote a healthy, authentic promarriage culture in this upcoming election.
See Birk defending traditional marriage on video, below:
Birk's comments on the issue of gay marriage follow other public statements from NFL players on the contentious social issue. The Jackson Sun provides a recap of the comments from NFL players that led Birk to take his very public stance on the matter:
After Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo supported gay marriage, state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter asking Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti hip to limit such comments from players.
That led Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to pen a profane letter to the delegate defending both free speech and gay marriage.
Now Ravens center (and former Viking) Matt Birk has penned an opinion in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune supporting free speech and opposing gay marriage.
But the back-and-forth didn't end there. On Monday, Kluwe responded in a separate post to Birk, attempting to debunk his opposition to gay marriage. On his blog, he opened by letting readers know that he knows Birk well and that he respects his fellow player for all he's done for the community; Kluwe also makes it known that he respects divergent opinions.
That said, Kluwe writes directly to Birk, telling him that he is wrong and states that, "the argument you presented in the Star Tribune simply does not stand up to logical inspection." Through a series of "problems," which Kluwe outlines as main arguments against Birk, the player takes aim at Birk's Minneapolis Star-Tribune article. Here's a snapshot:
Problem the first – Your argument lacks facts, sources, or statistics. You can’t just say “Same -sex marriage is bad for kids because I think it’s bad for kids, and I think it’s bad for kids because it’s bad for kids”. That’s called circular reasoning and it’s a logical fallacy. If you want us to understand why same-sex marriage is bad for kids, you need to provide some sort of substantial evidence. Tell us that children from same-sex couples are more likely to grow up broke and miserable and alone and will end their days starving in a gutter. Just don’t use a study like this one, which displays clear source and confirmation bias (as outlined neatly in this article from Slate). Use something like this(sadly behind a paywall, but the abstract should give you the high notes). I’ll sum it up for those who don’t want to click on links: there’s no difference between children raised in heterosexual relationships and same-sex relationships, as evidenced by a meta-study of nineteen different LBGT studies. [...]
Ultimately, while your letter is respectful and polite (and I’ve tried to keep mine the same way, no SPARKLEPONIES in this one), I remain unconvinced by any logical reasoning you have so far brought to bear on the subject. I encourage you to keep speaking out, as we should never be afraid to espouse our views, but from a rational standpoint I simply cannot agree with discrimination against a subset of our citizenry.
Read Kluwe's entire argument against Birk, here. What do you think about this debate? Should NFL players be so vocal about these contentious issues? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.