Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk is urging voters to protect traditional marriage in new online video released by the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

The Minnesota native said it is in the best interest of children to ensure marriage remains a union between a man and a woman.

"I encourage the majority of Americans who do agree that it's not the state's place to redefine marriage to speak up with truth and respect," Birk said in a statement Sunday, the day the Star Tribune published the player's opinion column on the issue. "Bonding one man and one woman together through marriage helps connect both moms and dads to their kids; that's why the state cares about marriage in the first place. Society should always be looking for ways to strengthen marriage, rather than redefine it."

Birk's statements come as Minnesotans are wrestling with a proposed amendment that would cement a ban on same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. Birk and other amendment supporters say they are worried about a judge or future legislators changing the law, noting a current Hennepin County case they say could redefine marriage in the state.

Marriage amendment opponents argue the measure would make it more difficult for gay and lesbian Minnesotans to eventually marry. State law already forbids same-sex marriage.

Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, the lead group opposing the amendment, sent Birk a letter explaining his opposition to the amendment.

"This amendment to our state's constitution would limit a basic freedom for some Minnesotans – like me – just because of who they are," Carlbom wrote. "Gay and lesbian couples want to marry for similar reasons as anyone else. And I know I stand with hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans when I say, no one would want to be told it's illegal to marry the person you love."

Birk's public support for the measure comes about two weeks after Vikings punter Chris Kluwe came out strongly in favor of same-sex marriage, touching off what has become a rare and high-profile disagreement between pro athletes on a political issue.
In the video, Birk said, there is no conflict between respecting and honoring same-sex couples and not wanting to redefine marriage. His message makes many of the same points as the Catholic Church and other marriage amendment supporters, who say they do not object to civil unions that resolve many of the legal problems facing same-sex couples.

"We are thankful to have someone like Matt Birk, who is a role model on and off the field, take a public stand on an issue that has such far-reaching social consequences," said Minnesota Catholic Conference executive director Jason Adkins. "We expect Catholics and non-Catholics alike will take notice."

Marriage amendment opponents argue Minnesota laws don't allow for civil unions and that they would grant second-class status to same-sex couples.

"I expect some people will misinterpret what I have to say, or make false accusations about me, but this issue is far too important for me to remain silent," said Birk, a Catholic. "It's not intolerant to understand that certain social institutions have boundaries for a purpose, and that marriage between one woman and one man serve a unique and irreplaceable role in society."