ANNAPOLIS, Md. — An ethics panel has criticized a Maryland lawmaker for using his official letterhead to urge Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to restrain linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from publicly supporting same-sex marriage.
Delegate Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), confirmed Tuesday he received what he described as “a cautionary letter” from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. The panel did not recommend further action.Burns says he accepts the panel’s finding, and he says he never meant to infringe on First Amendment rights to try to silence Ayanbadejo, who remained active on the issue.
In the Aug. 29, 2012, letter written on official Maryland House of Delegates stationary, Burns wrote:
“As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or another. [...]
“I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and stand clear of diving the fan base. I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions for your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.”
Last year, Ayanbadejo appeared in a video campaign of high profile Marylanders aimed at building support for same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland, and continues to advocate nationally for marriage equality.
The Maryland bill eventually passed in the state legislature, was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, and was approved by voters in a ballot referendum on Nov. 6, 2012.
Maryland became the ninth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage when the law took effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Burns, a Baptist pastor, says he was representing many of his constituents by speaking out against same-sex marriage. He has declined to release a copy of the reprimand publicly.