A Senator in the US state of Nevada came out as gay on Monday, during a legislative debate around a bill to repeal the state’s ban on equal marriage.

Senator Kelvin Atkinson nervously made the announcement during the debate around the legislation which was passed by the Nevada Senate 12 votes to 9, which could eventually lead to a repeal of a 2002 voter-approved constitutional amendment which bans equal marriage in the state.

Last week, the resolution SJR13, which was passed by the Senate committee a week prior 3 votes to 2, set out that the state of Nevada would recognise marriage regardless of gender.

“I’m black. I’m gay,” he said, reports 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.”

He went on to slam the suggestion by some that equal marriage would threaten other marriages. He said: “If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.”

One Senator, Ben Kieckhefer, was the only Republican to join his 11 Democratic peers to vote in favour of the measure.

The Church of the Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, which is particularly prominent in the state of Nevada, strongly opposes the amendment.

One Mormon Senator, Justin Jones, said during the debate that he sees his brother in law every Sunday at Church, and that he would not feel right voting against the measure to repeal the equal marriage ban.

“I would rather lose an election than look my brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn’t have the same rights as I do,” he said.

That sentiment was not shared by all, however, as Joe Hardy, also a Mormon, said that marriage is “ordained of God”, and said those relationships “perpetuate beyond the grave.”

“I do not believe this measure will strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society,” he said.

In 2002, voters in Nevada approved an amendment to the state constitution stating that “only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.” At that point, the vote was 337,197 to 164,573 for the amendment.

In June 2009, The law allowing domestic partnerships was passed, and became effective in September of that year, which allowed same-sex couples some rights, but not the full benefits of marriage.