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Ethics panel admonishes Burns over Ravens letter

By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

10:20 AM EST, February 5, 2013

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Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. said Tuesday he “accepted” his admonishment by the General Assembly’s ethics committee for using legislative stationery last year in trying to silence Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s outspoken support for same-sex marriage.  But the Baltimore County Democrat insisted he had nothing to apologize for in speaking out.

Burns said the ethics panel wrote him chiding him for using official stationery to write Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti urging him to  muzzle Ayanbadejo, who in the run-up to last fall’s votes in Maryland and other states on same-sex marriage wrote an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post and filmed video spots for Equality Maryland.

The delegate wrote Bisciotti: "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.”

About two weeks after sending the letter, after his demand made national news, Burns backed off his demand that Ayanbadejo be silenced.

Burns refused to release the committee’s letter to him, which was first reported by the Washington Post, saying he thought it was supposed to be secret. He said a citizen had sparked the panel’s action by filing a complaint.

“I accept it, but I don’t think it was justified,” he said.  “I am unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage, and I have been very aggressive in my opposition to same-sex marriage…. I’m not ashamed. I have nothing to be ashamed about.”

Burns, pastor and founder of the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Woodlawn, sparked debate when he wrote Biscotti as Maryland voters prepared to vote in November on whether to allow same-sex marriage.

"Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step intothis controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other,” the delegate wrote.

On Tuesday, Burns said he “didn’t intend to silence anybody’s First Amendment rights….but I felt this was a wrong move” on the part of someone in football, which he called “the most masculine sport out there.”

“The next time, I (will) write it on tissue,” he said, so that “it will be clean.”