Baltimore Ravens Center Matt Birk is speaking out in favor of traditional marriage between one man and one woman in a new commercial meant to encourage Maryland's voters to overturn the state's same-sex marriage law in an upcoming ballot measure.
"Marriage is not easy, but it has lasted throughout the ages as an honored institution because it provides a unique foundation for societies and children," Birk says in the commercial, which is financially backed by the Maryland Marriage Alliance (MMA).
The commercial is meant to discourage voters from supporting Maryland's Question 6, which would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state if passed. The bill was passed by the state's legislature and signed into law earlier this year, but the voters could either uphold or overturn the decision in November.
"Marriage is more than what adults want for themselves, it is also about the next generation," says Birk. "Marriage is, and should remain, between a man and a woman. Gay and lesbian couples already receive benefits in Maryland, like hospital visitation, state health benefits and tax breaks. We don't need to redefine marriage."
Birk, who is Catholic and received the NFL's Man of the Year award in 2012, has six children. He spent the first 10 seasons of his NFL career playing for the Minnesota Vikings before making the move to Baltimore in 2009.
Last week, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published an opinion piece written by Birk on the topic of same-sex marriage. He acknowledged the way other issues such as divorce, adultery and a "nonchalant attitude toward marriage" have harmed the institution of marriage, but also expressed his concern for the way allowing same-sex marriage could affect his children and the future of society in general.
"Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture," wrote Birk. "Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both."
But there is a clear division among NFL players on the topic of same-sex marriage, and even Birk's own teammate, Brendon Ayanbadejo, told The Baltimore Sun that he and Birk "respectfully disagree" on the issue.
Ayanbadejo compared the pursuit of marriage equality for gays and lesbians to the pursuit of racial equality in the United States. He grew up in a biracial family, and at one point his parents could not marry because of the difference in race.
He also told The Sun he won't give up his friendship with Birk simply because they disagree on the issue.
"Ultimately, we're both mature players with families and we have a lot of similarities, more similarities than differences," he said. "Coincidentally, we're two guys with two different opinions on this issue on the same team. We're presenting dialogue and talk as concerned citizens and trying to do what's best for our communities."
Deana Bass, who handles public affairs for MMA, told The Christian Post on Monday that Birk's relationship with the organization is fairly new, although his support of traditional marriage is not. The new commercial is just the first of three that the NFL star will appear in, all of which will eventually be made available through various forms of social media.