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US: Nevada Senator who came out during equal marriage debate ‘didn’t expect to’

Joseph McCormick April 25, 2013
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A US Senator in the state of Nevada has addressed the fact that he came out during a debate around the state’s equal marriage bill, and has said he did not plan to, but that he acted on “impulse”.

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 during the Senate debate. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”

Speaking to the LA Times, he said: “I didn’t expect to do it… I wasn’t even going to speak. It was an impulse.”

“I remember looking down at my clothes as I stood to speak and my heart was literally moving my suit jacket, that’s how scared I was,” he continued.

“I said, ‘I’ve got to do this. I’ve thought about this for so long.’ I thought about all my friends who have been in same-sex relationships for decades. I thought about them and the conversations we’ve had, and my own relationship. I knew if I was going to do it, I had to come out strong.”

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.

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