MARRIAGE equality advocates have applauded the decision by the Australian Football League to publicly support gay marriage.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan made the statement in response to a letter he received from Geelong mum Sharyn Faulkner whose son is gay.

In the letter, reported Fairfax Media, Faulkner said: “If the AFL publicly declares that they are in support of marriage equality you will give that young player who is struggling with their sexuality the courage to realise just who they are.”

In reply, McLachlan gave Faulkner his “personal commitment” to speak out on the issue.

“The AFL will keep saying no matter how many times it takes, that our game does not tolerate discrimination in any form, be that sexual identity, gender, race [or] religious views… we also support the position of marriage equality for all people,” McLachlan said.

“This matter is a serious issue for many young gay people, in terms of how they are treated in the wider community, and football leaders such as myself will continue to say that we do not tolerate it, and will continue to push for a change in behaviour from all sections of society.”

AFL teams Greater Western Sydney and Geelong have previously come out in support of same-sex marriage.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome welcomed the AFL’s stance on the issue and said the code was “extending its leadership” in the battle against homophobia.

“AFL is central to Australian identity and the AFL’s support for marriage equality reaffirms that values like inclusion and fairness are central too,” he said.

“With almost three quarters of Australians supporting marriage equality, the AFL’s support for the reform will be welcome by many AFL players and fans, and in all likelihood draw new fans to the game.”

The announcement comes just days after the completion of the Bingham Cup, the “world cup of gay rugby” held in Sydney last week.

In April, the AFL, along with other major sporting codes committed to implementing proactive anti-homophobia and inclusion policies by the time of Bingham Cup’s kick off.

The NRL and Australian Rugby Union signed off on their policies in advance of the tournament with AFL saying they intended to do so before the first match.

However, a Star Observer investigation found both Cricket Australia and Football Federation Australia were likely to miss the self-imposed deadline, with both codes announcing training programs instead.

Meanwhile, in the US, one of the most high-profile gay sports players of recent years has been dropped by his team.

Michael Sam became the first openly-gay player to be picked for an NFL team when he was drafted by the St Louis Rams in May.

However, last week Sam was dumped by the Rams as the team trimmed its roster.

Fellow Footballer Eric Woods laid the blame on the unrelenting media spotlight on Samm tweeting: “Blame… ESPN. No one wants the distraction.”

ESPN were forced to apologise in August after airing a report detailing Sam’s showering habits in the locker room.

Sam is now back on the market should another NFL team want him.

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