Photo: Kelvin Atkinson/Facebook
Last night, the Nevada State Senate took a step toward recognizing marriage equality.
Lawmakers voted 12-9 to repeal a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage, and replace it with a requirement that the state recognize all marriages regardless of gender.
The hour-long debate included some emotional moments - in particular from one senator, Kelvin Atkinson, who came out publicly for the first time.
"I'm black. I'm gay," he said in "a trembling voice", according to 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."
You can hear audio of Atkinson's speech below:
He also talked about his father's interracial remarriage, which he says would have been banned during an earlier period in American history.
Atkinson on election night, 2010 (Photo: Kelvin Atkinson/atkinson4nevada)
Atkinson argued against the idea that gay marriage threatens other definitions of marriage.
"If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.
Only one Republican senator, Ruben Kihuen, voted in favour of the bill, which is called Senate Joint Resolution 13.
He explained that his decision to support the bill came about in part because of his "more progressive" girlfriend, who berated him for refusing to support gay marriage.
"I don't know if I'll be allowed in church on Sunday," he said during the debate.
Other senators spoke against the bill, with Sen. Joe Hardy, a Mormon, saying marriage is "ordained of God," and that, "I do not believe this measure will strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."
And Sen. Mark Hutchison suggested that attempts to paint those who opposed the bill as intolerant were unfair.
"Until about a year ago this was the view of the president of the United States," Hutchison said. "I do not recall his supporters labeling him as intolerant, or insensitive or hypocritical or unenlightened. He had a different view than others."
Some opposition to the bill is due to a late amendment, which would require the new clause that the state recognize same-sex unions.
"Process is important," said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who was a supporter of the original version of the bill, but voted against this version. "The better course of action was and is to pass the original SJR13."
The Nevada Senate is the first legislative chamber in the U.S. to overturn a marriage amendment, as Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner points out.
But the bill still has a long way to go. It will next have to pass the state Assembly, and then a new legislature will vote on it during the next session in 2015.
If it passes there, a public referendum on the bill will be held in 2016.