Nevada Senator comes out during hearing to repeal gay marriage ban

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Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) publicly came out during a legislative debate on Monday over a measure to repeal Nevada’s gay marriage ban.

“I’m black. I’m gay,” said Atkinson during the hearing. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”

Describing it as an “emotional moment,” Atkinson told of his father’s interracial second marriage that would have been banned had America not accepted change.

He also argued that, “If [gay marriage]hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.”

Referred to as Senate Joint Resolution 13, the legislation in question would repeal the gay marriage ban and replace it with a requirement that the state recognize all marriages regardless of gender. 

After the hearing, the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to begin that process. 

Other Senators joined Atkinson in favor. 

“I would rather lose an election than look my [gay]brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn’t have the same rights as I do,” said Senator Justin Jones, who identifies as a Mormon.

“I don’t know if I’ll be allowed in church on Sunday,” said Senator Ruben Kihuen, a Catholic, who voted in favor of the bill, saying his “more progressive” girlfriend often berated him for resisting gay marriage rights. 

Of the Senators who did not vote in favor of the legislation, “Until about a year ago this was the view of the president of the United States,” said Senator Mark Hutchison during the hearing. “I do not recall his supporters labeling him as intolerant, or insensitive or hypocritical or unenlightened. He had a different view than others.”

Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marraige as between a man and a woman, once in 2000 and again in 2002. Those pushing Senate Join Resolution 13 believe there has been a shift in voter opinion regarding the issue.

“This is a vote to let the people vote for equality,” said Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas).

If Senate Joint Resolution 13 passes, the Legislature would have to approve it again in 2015, at which point the measure would be placed on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide upon. 

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