An hour-long debate over a marriage equality bill became a coming out of sorts for Nevada state Senator Kelvin Atkinson, who announced to his colleagues, "I'm Black. I'm gay," while discussing his father's interracial re-marriage that would have been illegal in most states prior to 1967.
He added, "If this [bill] hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place."
Following Atkinson's testimony, the Nevada Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would repeal the constitutional amendment banning marriage equality that was passed in 2002. The resolution included a late amendment that would add to the state constitution a requirement that unions between same-sex couples be recognized. If passed by the Assembly, and by both houses once again in 2015, it would go to voters in 2016.
One republican voted in favor of the bill, State Senator Ben Kieckhefer. Many republicans said they were in favor of the original resolution but did not support the amendment that would add to the constitution. Instead, many of them thought marriage should not be in Nevada's constitution at all.
Atkinson made headlines for his coming out, but he is not the only gay senator in Nevada. State Senator Pat Spearman, a black, lesbian minister, recalled growing up in the deep south in the 1960s.
"I know what it feels like when people want to push separate but equal. Separate is not equal," she said.
The first openly gay person elected to the Nevada Legislature, State Senator David Parks, echoed Atkinson's point.
"There is no threat; no threat to one's marriage," he insisted.