The Nevada state senator who last year came out on the Senate floor amid an emotional speech supporting marriage equality will soon hear wedding bells himself, after he proposed to his longtime partner on live television Tuesday.
Speaking before a crowd at the Freedom Nevada rally celebrating the imminent arrival of marriage equality in Nevada, Kelvin Atkinson, a Democrat representing North Las Vegas, said he has long wanted to marry his partner of six and a half years, Sherwood "Woody" Howard, but he didn't want to go to another state to do so.
"I always felt that I'd stay and I'd stick it out, and hopefully Woody would stick it out with me and we'd wait until this was done so that I could do what I thought I wanted to do — and that was to propose to him," Atkinson said, earning a round of enthusiastic applause and a wide smile from Howard.
Acknowledging that his comments were being broadcast live and responding to crowd prompts to "do it!" Atkinson invited his partner onto the stage alongside him.
"Woody, I know it has been six years," Atkinson began. "They haven’t always been great, but we have been great partners, and as a lot of you know, in a lot of my political work [you are] the one person that I trust the most to be there with me, to be there for me, to be that confidant, to be my friend and my partner, so I’m saying it in front of everybody, will you marry me?'"
Smiling from ear to ear, Howard said yes, as the couple exchanged a hug and kiss.
After the proposal, Atkinson told CNN he hadn't planned to pop the question that day, but that "I was telling my story and it just came out."
While the newly engaged couple can now start planning their nuptials, it's unclear exactly when they will be able to tie the knot in their home state.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Tuesday affirmed lower court rulings striking down Nevada's and Idaho's bans on same-sex marriage. State officials in Idaho immediately requested a stay of the Ninth Circuit's decision, announcing a plan to appeal to the full circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court granted that request and put Idaho marriage equality on hold Wednesday morning, but due to a clerical error, the order technically placed Nevada's marriage equality on hold as well.
Just hours after that first order, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is responsible for considering requests from the Ninth Circuit, issued a second order "upon further consideration," clarifying that Nevada could begin marrying same-sex couples, since state officials had stopped defending the antigay ban and would not appeal the court's decision. However, confusion among lawyers, reporters, and state officials kept Nevada from issuing any marriage licenses to same-sex couples as originally scheduled on Wednesday.
To further complicate the issue, the right-wing group defending Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage filed an emergency request Wednesday with the Ninth Circuit to block marriage equality in the state, though Freedom Nevada reported Thursday that the group has since dropped that petition. The Ninth Circuit subsequently sent out an order confirming that report and effectively reinstating its ruling in favor of marriage equality.
BuzzFeed's legal editor Chris Geidner has been closely following the legal back-and-forth in Nevada, though it remains unclear when county clerks in the state will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has clarified that the decision striking down Nevada's marriage ban "remains in full force and effect," while many county clerks are still awaiting direct legal guidance on how to proceed.
Advocacy group Lambda Legal, however, claims that clerks don't need additional injunctions or orders to comply with the Ninth Circuit's order and can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at any time, reports Geidner. For now, however, marriage equality has not yet arrived in the Battle Born State.
Watch video of Atkinson's proposal below, captured by Atkinson's constituent and friend Christopher Preciado and posted on Facebook Tuesday.