Nevada Senate OKs Marriage Equality, Senator Comes Out

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com April 23 2013 11:10 AM ET

The Nevada State Senate voted 12-9 to repal the statewide constitutional amendment that currently bars same-sex couples from marrying, after a floor debate in which Sen. Kelvin Atkinson told all of his colleagues that he is gay.

"I'm black. I'm gay," he said Monday, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black gay male."

Atkinson, who was reportedly very emotional, added that his father, who remarried a woman of another race, would have been barred from doing so earlier in American history. He also argued that establishing marriage equality for same-sex couples would not threaten heterosexual marriages.

"If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.

The state senate now has three openly gay members, including senators David Parks and Pat Spearman, with Atkinson.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer was the only Republican to vote in favor of overturning the constitutional ban. Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a Catholic, said he wasn't sure if he would "be allowed in church on Sunday," after voting to repeal the ban, but Mormon senator Justin Jones said he had to vote in support of his gay brother-in-law.

"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," Jones said. 

According to Buzzfeed, this is the first time a state legislative body has voted to repeal such a law. Next, the state Assembly, which has 27 Democrats and 15 Republicans, would have to vote on the measure. It would then have to be approved by both houses again in 2015, and then voters would make the final decision in 2016 by ballot.