Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Profiles in Courage

Last night was truly one to remember. SJR 13 passed the Nevada Senate 12-9. And during the debate on the Senate floor, we saw many surprises. For one, Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) came out. And BuzzFeed ran with the story, which made it national.

Late Monday, the Nevada Senate became the first legislative chamber in the country to vote to overturn a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.

After a little more than an hour of debate in which one senator publicly declared that he was gay for the first time, the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to repeal the state's 2002 amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman and replace it with language requiring the recognition of all marriages between two people, "regardless of gender."

In addition to out LGBT Sens. David Parks and Pat Spearman, Sen. Kelvin Atkinson declared on the floor during the debate, "I am a black, gay male." Because he was speaking about his sexual orientation publicly for the first time Monday night, he said he had heard negative comments about the marriage amendment repeal from others prior to the vote. But, he said, "People should mind their business and allow people to do what they want to do."

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer was the sole Republican to vote for the marriage amendment's repeal.

Coming out isn't easy. Nope, it can be difficult. And for some, it takes time. So it's incredibly courageous for Senator Atkinson to not only come out, but do so on the Nevada Senate floor. Oh, and he came out just as his colleagues were about to vote on his civil rights. Whoa.

And that wasn't all. As BuzzFeed also mentioned, Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) was the sole Senate Republican to cross the aisle and support marriage equality last night. On one hand, this wasn't too surprising. After all, he "came out" in support of equality last month at the first SJR 13 hearing.

Yet on the other hand, this was quite surprising. Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) did a total back-flip on SJR 13. And he was whining about amendments. And he was blaming Democrats (??!!) for his flip-flop. And he was arguing that "marriage shouldn't be in the Constitution", even as he was voting to keep marriage discrimination in the Nevada Constitution. And in case all that wasn't confusing and ridiculous enough, he also ultimately whipped Republicans against the current version of SJR 13.

Yet despite this intense intrigue and pressure, Senator Kieckhefer stood by his principles. He showed true courage. And he ultimately did what he knew was right.

And that wasn't all. We also saw this.

RT @SethBRau: Senator @Jones4Nevada says he'd rather lose an election than not give his brother-in-law equal rights #SJR13 #nvleg #powerful

Against tons of pressure, Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise) voted for SJR 13 last night. He was even threatened by the mastermind of the Question 2 marriage ban himself! And some didn't expect him to do this anyway because of his faith. Yet despite the misperceptions and the political threats, Senator Jones voted for equality anyway. Now that's true courage.

At first, last night was a bit disappointing and frustrating. Yet again, our civil rights were being treated as political footballs. But this time, we saw a difference. This time, 12 Nevada Senators ultimately showed true courage. Oh, and they took some advice from one of my favorite philosophers on what to do with the pure political BS.

This isn't even a full list, far from it. Again, all 12 Senators who voted for SJR 13 last night are true profiles in courage. I just thought we should talk about this before we see more spin suggesting otherwise.

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