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Missouri’s Sam may become NFL’s first openly gay player

Holder extends same-sex marriage rights

Merdies Hayes | 2/13/2014, midnight
Michael Sam

The NFL has had its share of headlines regarding sexual orientation. Last year, a University of Colorado player said an NFL team asked him if he liked girls and had a girlfriend. The league quickly issued a response to the controversy: “Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline.”

Sam’s head coach at Missouri, Gary Pinkel, said: “We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this; and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou. Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others; he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a prepared statement: “By rewriting the script for countless young athletes, Michael has demonstrated the leadership that, along with his impressive skills on the field, makes him a natural for the NFL. With acceptance of LGBT people rising across our coasts—in our schools, churches and workplaces—it’s clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star.”

Holder’s announcement at the Human Rights Campaign’s gala that the federal government will expand the recognition on same-sex marriages in federal legal matters comes at a time when states are bitterly divided on the issue, and also may be a direct response to Russia’s anti-gay policies which drew controversy leading up to the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. “Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” Holder said, “the stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher. As attorney general, I will not let this department simply be a bystander during this important moment in history.”

Support for gay rights has generally increased, as evidenced late last year when the Senate passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. In 2012, the United States military outlawed its controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of admission. According to a national Quinnipiac University poll from September 2013, 56 percent of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples, compared with 25 percent who supported it in 1996.