Nevada State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D – North Las Vegas) came out to his fellow lawmakers Monday during a legislative debate on removing the gay marriage ban from the state constitution.
“I never considered myself someone who was in the closet,” Sen. Atkinson told theGrio. ”My family and friends knew.”
Atkinson said while his close friends in the Nevada House and Senate knew his sexual orientation, his statement Monday “was the first time publicly acknowledging it for everyone else.”
“I had no intentions of speaking that night. [I] heard some of my colleagues speak, and I just felt like now is a really good time to do it. My heart was pounding through my suit. I just felt like it was time.”
The Senate Debate
When he took the floor to express his views, Atkinson followed up on a previous senator’s comments regarding prior laws banning African-Americans and Caucasians to marry.
Atkinson told fellow legislators that his father remarried when he was very young to a white woman and has seven mixed-race siblings, which would not have been possible years ago.
Finishing his argument on why the gay marriage ban should be repealed, Atkinson concluded with, “I’m black. I’m gay.”
“I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male,” Atkinson told his peers.
Defending gay marriage against the argument that it threatens traditional marriage, the Democratic senator said, “If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.”
At the end of a long, emotional debate on gay marriage, the Nevada Senate eventually voted 12-9 to begin the process of repealing the ban, reported the Las Vegas Sun.
Sen. Atkinson told theGrio that following the vote there was a senator or two who reported Atkinson’s speech had swayed their vote.
In response to becoming an ambassador to the black community for gay rights, the Nevada state senator said “I would like to think so, although that is not the reason I did this.”
“The president is a human being,” Atkinson said about Obama’s change of stance on same-sex marriage. ”The president had different views up until a year ago.”
“I just think it took a while to change his views, and now that he has he’s trying to act on it.”
“You should never rush someone into a decision,” Atkinson added. “I think the president did it on his terms and when he felt comfortable, so I don’t have an issue with that.”
Since Monday night, Atkinson has received over a thousand e-mails and Facebook messages.
“All the responses have been good,” Atkinson said while responding to a heartfelt message from a supporter. “I think maybe one or two negative in that 1000.”
With the overwhelming majority being positive and supportive, Atkinson said he knows “what it’s like to struggle with sexuality.”
“In life things happen. We are all moved at some point in life to do something or not do something. I think that was the right thing to do.”
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.
This story originally appeared on theGrio.com