Nevada Senators voted, following a dramatic hour of speeches that included one state senator coming out as gay, to start the process of removing a same-sex marriage ban from the state constitution.
Senators voted 12-9 in favor of a state joint resolution that will require Nevada recognize all marriages, regardless of gender, reports the Las Vegas Sun
. The resolution was favored by Democrats, with only one Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer voting for the measure.
The vote was taken late at night following an hour of debate, during which Demcoratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson declared that he is gay.
“I'm black. I'm gay,” he said, after describing his father's interracial re-marriage that would have been banned in the past. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”
Rebutting the thought that same-sex unions threaten the sanctity of marriage, Atkinson commented “If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.
Members of both parties tried to balance their religious beliefs with their stance on the issue.
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Democratic Sen. Justin Jones, a Mormon, commented he sees his gay brother-in-law every Sunday in church. “ 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.”
But Republican Sen. Joe Hardy, who is also a Mormon, said marriage is “ordained of God” and he doesn't believe legalizing gay marriage will strengthen the family.
Republican Sen. Mark Hutchison, yet another Mormon, complained about efforts to paint same-sex marriage opponents as being intolerant.
"Until about a year ago this was the view of the president of the United States," Hutchison said about President Barack Obama's initial opposition to gay marriage, on religious grounds. "I do not recall his supporters labeling him as intolerant, or insensitive or hypocritical or unenlightened. He had a different view than others."
Nevada voters approved an amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman in 2000 and again in 2002, but proponents of the new move say public opinion has changed. This time around, if the legislature approves the new law, it will have to approve it again in 2015, and then it would be put on the 2016 ballot.
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