The Nevada state Senate voted Monday night to repeal an amendment to the state Constitution banning gay marriage and replace it with one requiring Nevada to recognize the practice. The debate was heated and emotional, and Sen. Kelvin Atkinson publicly declared for the first time that he is gay.
“I’m black. I’m gay,” Atkinson told the assembly in a trembling voice, reports 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.”
After describing his father's interracial marriage that would once have been banned, Atkinson, a single father himself, went on to rebut the argument that gay marriage threatens any other definition of marriage. "If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.
The Nevada senate voted in favor of SJR13 12-9, with only one Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, joining Democrats to pass the resolution. Republicans objected to an amendment which would require not just the repeal of the marriage ban, but also a requirement that the state recognize same-sex unions.
"I don't know if I'll be allowed in church on Sunday," said Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a Catholic, who said his "more progressive" girlfriend questioned him for resisting gay marriage rights. He voted in favor of SJR13.
Sen. Justin Jones said that although he's Mormon, he sees his gay brother-in-law ever Sunday at church and couldn't bring himself to vote against extending marriage rights, despite the fact that he received threats from a proponent of the marriage ban.
"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.
If SJR13 passes, the Legislature would have to approve it again in 2015. The measure would then be placed on the 2016 ballot. In 2000 and again in 2002, Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman.