Chicago sports icons endorse marriage equality with open letter

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A group of prominent Chicago Athletes have come out in support of extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. In an open letter to the Illinois House of Representatives, the sports stars urged lawmakers to approve the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

“Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is,” says the letter.

Athletes signing the letter include Chicago icon and Chicago Cubs shortstop and first baseman Ernie Banks, and former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.

Also signing the letter is prominent LGBT ally Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been a vocal supporter of pro-LGBT legislation in recent months.

Born in Chicago and playing for the Bears from 2005-2007, Ayanbadejo now plays for the Baltimore Ravens and was on the team that took home the Super Bowl XLVII championship earlier this year.

“We come from a variety of backgrounds, and we have played different sports for different teams. But one thing that binds us together is our belief in the importance of fairness and respect – in all aspects of life,” the letter stated.

“In Illinois today, gay and lesbian couples who are in lifetime committed relationships do not have the freedom to marry. This violates our sense of fairness and respect. It also goes against the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.”

Marriage Equality has gained momentum in Illinois as lawmakers prepare to make their decision on the legislation.

A recent Crain’s/Ipsos poll shows 50 percent of Illinoisans in favor and 29 percent opposed.

Every major newspaper serving Illinois has also endorsed the marriage equality bill, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Peoria Journal Star, the Springfield Journal-Register, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Quad City Times.

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