A Nevada state senator announced to his colleagues on Monday evening that he is gay, in comments delivered ahead of a key vote to repeal the state's ban on same sex marriage.

"I’m black. I'm gay," Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D) said, in a quote caught by 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 reportedly added: "If this [bill] hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place."

The vote passed 12-9, splitting along party lines with a single Republican, Sen. Ben Keickhefer, breaking ranks to join them. The Sun noted that Keickhefer did not utter a single word during the debate period.

The bill begins the process of repealing the state's same sex marriage ban and implementing universal marriage rights, regardless of gender. It still has to be passed by the House, where Democrats hold a strong majority, and then again by both chambers in 2015. If all three of those future votes succeed, the measure will appear on the state's 2016 ballot, putting the question of equality to the state's voters.

A survey taken in February (PDF) by the Retail Association of Nevada found that 54 percent of the state's voters support repealing Nevada's same sex marriage ban.


Photo: Atkinson for Nevada State Senate.