Nevada Lawmaker Comes Out During Gay Marriage Debate
As Nevada law officials debated whether gay marriage should be legal in the state, a senator unexpectedly came out, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
During the legislative debate over a measure to repeal Nevada's gay marriage ban on Monday, State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) made an emotional announcement in which he revealed that he is gay.
"I'm black. I'm gay," Atkinson said, in what the Sun called "a trembling voice." "I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male." Atkinson went on to say that marriage equality does not threaten other definitions of marriage.
"If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.
Those who opposed the bill said they were worried they'd be labeled as "insensitive and unenlightened" and supporters said marriage should be extended to same-sex couples. Democrats and Republicans worked together to balance religious convictions with their views on public policy.
One Catholic senator said he voted in favor of the measure after his "more progressive" girlfriend gave him grief for standing against gay marriage rights in the past. A Mormon senator said he couldn't vote against gay marriage since his brother-in-law is gay.
"I would rather lose an election than look my brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn't have the same rights as I do," Sen. Justin Jones said. But Sen. Joe Hardy, also a Mormon, voted against the measure and said marriage is "ordained of God" and that same-sex relationships "perpetuate beyond the grave."
"I do not believe this measure will strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society," he added.
After Atkinson's revelation and after hours of debate, lawmakers voted 12-9 to begin the process of repealing the gay marriage ban from the state constitution.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer was the only Republican who voted with 11 Democrats in support of Senate Join Resolution 13, which would repeal the gay marriage ban and legalize same-sex marriage. Kieckhefer did not say a word on the Senate floor, however.
According to the Sun, if the measure is passed the Legislature would have to approve it again in 2015. The measure then would be put on the 2016 ballot.