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article image'I’m black. I'm gay': Nevada lawmaker comes out during debate

By Yukio Strachan     Apr 24, 2013 in Politics
Las Vegas - "I’m black. I'm gay," declared Sen. Kelvin Atkinson in a trembling voice on the floor of the state house where the Nevada Senate voted on a resolution to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
"I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male," Atkinson told the assembly on Monday night, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The young single father and Chicago-native, who has served as a Democratic member of the state’s legislature for more than a decade, went on to rebut the widely held belief among same-sex marriage opponents that allowing gay couples to marry would undermine the institution. In particular, opponents argue that recognizing same-sex unions would change the structure of marriage held for thousands of years.
“If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place,” said Atkinson.
Atkinson compared marriage equality to interracial marriage. He said his father's interracial re-marriage would have been banned earlier in American history.
The measure, known as Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR13,) passed the state Senate by a 12-9 vote, with the sole Republican voting in favor of the amendment being Sen. Ben Kieckhefer. However, Nevada's governor must still sign the amendment into law.
MSNBC explains:
If passed, the resolution would repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and require the state to recognize all marriages regardless of gender. From here, the measure will go to the state Assembly, which has a 27-to-15 Democratic advantage, and then onto the Legislature again in 2015. The repeal would be put to the ballot in 2016.
Nevada voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2000 and again in 2002 defining marriage as between a man and woman, MSNBC added.
Stuart Gaffney of pro-gay marriage organization Marriage Equality USA sees states taking these votes into their own hands as a positive step for the nation.
“What we see all across the country is that peoples’ opinions are changing very rapidly on marriage equality, actually faster than almost any other social issue of our time, and the reason is because people are getting to know their lesbian and gay friends, colleagues and neighbors – or in this case fellow members of the legislature – and realizing that the freedom to marry means the world to them but doesn’t actually take away from anybody else,” Gaffney told ABC News.
While many people, including politicians, have recently come out in favor of gay marriage not all are supportive.
Tom McClusky, senior vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, stated that those politicians who chose to change their position on gay marriage did so not from a governing standpoint, but that they were emotionally swayed.
"In this case I think the legislators, in leading with their hearts and not with their minds, are making bad choices for their constituents," McClusky said in a statement to ABC News.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found both growing support, and opposition for extending marriage rights to same-sex couples: 53% said they supported same-sex marriage, while 42% were opposed, MSNBC reported.
More about Kelvin Atkinson, Gay marriage, Nevada Senate, blacks and marriage equality
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