Tuesday, April 23, 2013

So Big, Yet So Personal

Last night was definitely a night to remember in Carson City. And not only was the Nevada Senate's approval of SJR 13 something to behold here in our state, but its approval is attracting national attention as well. For one, Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) coming out on the Senate floor caused many jaws to drop.

Here's what happened when The Los Angeles Times called Senator Atkinson's office.

“I’m black. I’m gay,” he said in a shaky voice. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”

Atkinson argued that gay marriage does not threaten any legal or moral definition of the union.

“If this hurts your marriage,” he said, “then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.”

The measue still has a way to to before gay marriage is a reality in Nevada. The idea still must pass the Assembly, where the Democrats have a 27-15 edge. It also must be passed by lawmakers next year and approved by voters in 2016.

A woman who answered the phone in Atkinson’s Carson City office told the Los Angeles Times that the legislator was deluged with interview requests and was trying to accommodate them while tending to his Senate duties.

The Huffington Post put Atkinson on the front page of its LGBT site. This story has also been picked up by MSNBC. So has ABC News. So has the International Business Times. And so have many other national media outlets.

However, perhaps one story that's really weighing on me today is the one posted earlier today by Nevada's own Jon Ralston. Read and weep.

Steven is my brother. Steven is the most wonderful, loving person I know. He has two incandescent children and a perfectly matched life partner.

Steven also happens to be gay. And as senator after senator rose last night, as if they were feeding off each other’s energy and humanity, to support repealing the state’s gay marriage law, I thought of Steven.

I hope I would feel the way I do even if my brother weren’t gay, even if I couldn’t imagine depriving him of the opportunity to marry Rob, as he did in 2011. But every time I see them and their two adopted children together, I am reminded of how their family is no different than any happy family, while (with homage, Leo) for so many different reasons, there are so many unhappy heterosexual marriages out there.

It makes the issue real to me, just as it does for Sen. Justin Jones, who spoke movingly of his gay brother-in-law and voted to repeal the ban even though his LDS church friends might not understand or it might threaten his re-election chances. "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,” Jones said, his voice soft but affecting.

On a night when I had to holster my usual snark and cynicism as I listened and watched these politicians transmogrify into human beings, allowing the personal to be the political, letting the emotions most elected officials reflexively hold in check pour forth into the public eye.

Yep, there's been a whole lot of coming out since last night. And that's a good thing.

Senator Kelvin Atkinson came out on the Senate floor... Then came out to the national media. He talked about his own life, his own struggle, and his own loves. And that's been serving as a reminder of just how personal this issue is for so many of us.

It's also had more people think about their own experiences. And we've been seeing more "coming out" experiences since last night. And we've all had to confront the reality of what happens when we condone discrimination against people based on who they are and who they love.

This story has been going national. It's been getting big. Yet at the same time, it's hitting home. And it's very personal.

This certainly is a story to remember.

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