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Kelvin Atkinson, Nevada Lawmaker, Comes Out In Gay Marriage Debate

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Nevada state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) on Monday declared that he is gay during a legislative debate over a measure to repeal the state's gay marriage ban.

"I'm black. I'm gay," he said, in what the Las Vegas Sun described as a "trembling" voice. "I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male."

He dismissed the idea that gay marriage threatened other marriages. "If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place."

The measure passed the Senate by a 12-9 vote, with 11 Democrats and one Republican voting in favor. It would remove the ban on gay marriages in the Nevada Constitution. If passed by the Assembly, which has a 27-to-15 Democratic advantage, and both houses again in 2015, the repeal would then be put to voters in 2016.

Nevada voters passed a gay marriage ban in 2000 and 2002. The legislature passed a domestic partnership law over former Gov. Jim Gibbons' (R) veto in 2009. A February poll by the Retail Association of Nevada showed that 54 percent of Nevadans favor repealing the marriage ban while 43 percent oppose.

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