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Marriage debate gets very personal


Lawmaker tells colleagues: ‘I’m gay’

LAS VEGAS – As Nevada lawmakers took a step toward repealing a state ban on gay marriage, the late-night floor arguments in the Legislature in Carson City were emotional and came with a surprise announcement.

One state senator told his stunned colleagues that he’s gay.

The Nevada Senate voted 12-9 Monday night to begin the process of repealing the gay marriage ban from the state Constitution, a move to legalize unions between gays and lesbians.

Supported by 11 Democrats and one Republican, the bill, Senate Joint Resolution 13, would amend the state Constitution to remove a provision declaring that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The measure also includes wording guaranteeing that religious organizations do not have to perform such unions – a move to mollify two senators who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The night’s most surprising moment came when state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, a Democrat from North Las Vegas, told his colleagues that he was gay and proud of it.

“I’m black. I’m gay,” he said in a shaky voice. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”

Atkinson argued that gay marriage does not threaten any legal or moral definition of the union.

“If this hurts your marriage,” he said, “then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.”

The measure still has a way to go before gay marriage is a reality in Nevada. The idea still must pass the Assembly, where the Democrats have a 27-15 edge. It also must be passed by lawmakers next year and approved by voters in 2016.