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Legislator Writes to Boss of Equality Advocate: Shut Him Up!

Rob Tisinai

September 7th, 2012

In an astonishing assault on freedom of speech, Democratic state legislator Emmett Burns wrote to a man’s employer and asked him to shut the man up and shut the man down for advocating marriage equality.

Really. Burns wrote to Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens football team:

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 the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.

I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees 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.

Please give me your immediate response.

The second paragraph stuns me. Somehow, though, the last sentence’s commanding tone makes the whole thing even more chilling.  Just to recap:

This is a state legislator…writing on official Maryland House of Delegates a man’s boss…asking him to shut down his employee’s free speech.

It would be bad enough if Burns had applied pressure directly to Ayanbadejo. But going through his boss? Can you imagine if state legislators starting calling your employer — or worse, writing them on official letterhead — demanding that you stop exercising your First Amendment rights? That’s abuse on top of abuse.

This is at least as bad as when a Chicago alderman tried to block a Chik-fil-a store because he didn’t like the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. (I was away at the time, without Internet access, so let me state for the record: the alderman was an ass). To me, though, this seems worse, because contra Romney and the current Supreme Court, a corporation is not a person, and the power gap between an city alderman and multibillion-dollar corporation is not as frightening as the one between a state legislator and a private citizen.

Should Burns should resign over this? At the very least, he should sit barefoot on Ayanbadejo’s doorstep for three days, wearing a hairshirt, forgoing food and shelter, until Ayanbadejo accepts his apology. Burns is a public servant — we use that language for a reason — and his first duty to protect our rights.  He’s abused his power, demonstrated his incompetence, and violated his oath of office.

Also, like so many of our opponents, he spouts nonsense even though Google is just a keyboard away. “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.” Really? Here are a few players I’d like him to meet.

Emmett Burns’ mix of ignorance and arrogance is all too common among our opponents. No surprise, though: each one breeds the other in a falling spiral of self-righteous egomania. I suppose I can take comfort in one thing. The National Organization for Marriage, a group that trumpets its principled support for liberty and opposition to government overreach, will be quick and fierce in its denunciation of this legislator.




September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Rumor (disclosure: I started the rumor) has it that Mike Huckabee has declared that the eighth Thursday in never will be Brendon Ayanbadejo Appreciation Day.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

So it was cool for David Tyree to express his opinions against marriage equality. According to Wikipedia, he also once played for the Baltimore Ravens.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Huckabee should be calling for a Freedom of Speech Ayanbadejo Appreciation Day any minute now!

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Remember when Michelle Obama spoke of those who would shut the door of opportunity behind them?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Emmett “Shut the Door Behind You” Burns.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

I pray that someone will run against this fool, so I can make a contribution to that campaign…

Timothy Kincaid
September 7th, 2012 | LINK

The top headline over at the National Organization for Marriage’s NOMblog is

“NFL Star Burgess Owens Tells Blacks Not to Vote for Obama Over Same-Sex Marriage”

Irony, meet Mr. Burns.

Timothy Kincaid
September 7th, 2012 | LINK

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

This is PRECISELY what the First Amendment forbids. It protects free speech against repercussions from the government.

This Congressman is an idiot.

Lindoro Almaviva
September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Good thing for him I am not Brendon Ayanbadejo because I would march my butt to the ACLU and sue him for violating my constitutional rights and let him defend himself in court. I would do everything in my power to destroy his political career, and unlike Brendon, what Mr. Burns did is illegal and in writing.

I hope someone does take this to court, some bullies need to be bullied back so they know how it feels.

David Roberts
September 7th, 2012 | LINK

This is a rare instance when cries of First Amendment violations are spot on. Burns really should consider resigning over that one.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

The Vikings’ Chris Kluwe has written a response.

Michael C
September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you for including that link, MAJeff. After reading that, there’s nothing left to add to the conversation. Kluwe said it all.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Apparently Mr. Ayanbadejo’s own response was more muted. From what I read he simply noted that Burns had managed to give the issue nationwide attention and should be thanked. The Ravens management had an even better response – they acknowledged receiving the letter and had no other comment.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Burns is a Democrat? Shouldn’t his party be calling him out for this nonsense?

Proud to live in Baltimore and proud to root for the Ravens, by the way.

September 7th, 2012 | LINK

Maybe if the citizens of Maryland wrote to their legislators demanding that Del. Burns be censured for violating the civil rights of a private citizen, Burns might figure out that he screwed up.

September 8th, 2012 | LINK

As a history buff, I like how you work in the clash between Pope Gregory and Holy Roman Emperor Henry. Nice touch! :)

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