(Photo: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)
Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus is the latest among big name sports starts who have come out in favor of same-sex marriage, as a number of important votes are set to be held in various states during the general election on Nov. 6.
"Everyone thinks that the WNBA is one big lesbo party anyway," Augustus said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So I think the coming out process isn't as tough for us because people already expect it." Augustus, a two-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is hoping to marry her partner Lataya Varner – but whether that will happen in Minnesota depends on what the people decide on Nov. 6.
"I'm hoping that it passes 'cause then we're able to have a nice wedding here and actually be able to legally do it here instead of having to go a few hours away to Iowa or somewhere like that to have it done," Augustus said.
Seven U.S. territories currently have legalized same-sex marriage: the District of Columbia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. In three weeks, referendum voters in Maryland, Washington, Maine and Minnesota will have to decide whether or not their states will be included in that list. If same-sex marriage passes in any of these states, it will be the first time a state vote has approved changing the traditional definition of marriage – everywhere else, state legislatures and the courts have legalized it.
In Minnesota, the vote is expected to be very close. Statistics released by a pro-gay marriage organization called The Four noted that voters are still leaning toward preserving the traditional definition by a two percent margin, although public opinion is divided.
Besides Lynx, a number of other mainline sports starts have also come out in favor of same-sex marriage in Minnesota and other state in recent weeks – although some are also in favor preserving the traditional definition.
"It looks like there's this shift occurring in the NFL right now," said Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe on the subject of gay marriage. "As younger and younger generations are coming through, they've been raised to realize that this isn't bad thing. It's about equality. It's about being able to lead your life free of oppression."
The Baltimore Ravens has two team members who have publicly spoken on opposite sides of the issue.
Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has said he supports the group Marylanders for Marriage Equality, and is in favor of same-sex marriage, revealing that his worldview was shaped by growing up with gay friends and relatives in California.
"It was really a subject that no one wanted to touch, athletes weren't really touching it," Ayanbadejo said of how the subject is discussed among his teammates. "If I heard something, it was never head-on. It was always in the periphery. I'd hear snickering or comments but never had a single conversation with anyone other than [Ravens] coach [John] Harbaugh about it."
Center Matt Birk, however, has spoken out in favor of preserving marriage between one man and one woman, noting that his Christian principles have led him to such a position.
"Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children – the next generation," Birk wrote. "Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. 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."
A number of conservative groups and church leaders are also warning that redefining marriage can have negative consequences for the states and the country as a whole.
"Same-sex marriage advocates love to talk about the freedom to love and their own interpretation of 'rights'. The truth is that none of us need a legal contract to love – we are all born with that freedom. Marriage is not really about the desires of adults. It should be about endorsing the kind of families that will be the best for kids and supporting those unions with public policies, even though other living arrangements may exist," Bishop Harry Jackson from Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., wrote as an explanation for why the referendum in his state needs to be rejected.
"The reason that legally defined marriage is important is because of children. It takes a mother and a father to conceive a child, and children have a God-given right to have a relationship with both their biological mother and their biological father," Jackson added.