Nevada Gay Marriage Bill: Could This Where the U.S. Gay Marriage Wave Starts?

Same-sex marriage has now recently been legalized in France, Uruguay, and New Zealand. As the more and more places join in providing equal rights to all around, the next stand for marriage equality could come from a very unlikely place.

The Nevada State Senate passed a bill that would repeal a ban on same-sex couple marriages late Monday night. The bill marks the first step on the long road to actually having same-sex marriage in Nevada. The bill's passage was filled with drama and revelations as the vote took place.

Nevada’s ban on same sex marriage was passed in 2000 and 2002 by ballot measure. The Nevada constitution requires two ballot votes for citizen-led constitutional amendments. It defined marriage as only being between one man and one woman, prevent all other marriages from being legally recognized by the state.

The bill passed by the Senate on Monday seeks to nullify that. It would amend the Nevada constitution to require the recognition of all marriages regardless of gender. The Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to repeal the amendment and replace it with one that grants equal rights. State Senator Ben Kieckhefer was the only Republican who went against his caucus and voted to repeal the measure. He voted without saying a word during the entire debate.

The debate on the legislative floor was filled with emotional pleas. Senator Justin Jones, a Mormon, shared the story of how he saw his gay brother-in-law at church every Sunday and how he could not vote against same-sex marriage. He said on the floor, "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."

The most dramatic moment of the debate came when Democratic State Senator Kelvin Atkinson took to the floor to come out openly as gay for the first time, declaring, "I am a black, gay male." He would go on to describe his parent’s inter-racial marriage and how it would have been illegal under Nevada’s anti-miscegenation law, which was repealed in 1959.

Although this measure passed in the Nevada State Senate, it still has to be passed in the State Assembly. Once passed by both chambers of the legislature they both must pass the bill again in the next legislative session in 2015. From there it is placed on the ballot for approval by the voters of Nevada.

If everything occurs in favor of the measure, Nevada would become the 11th state to recognize same-sex marriages in the United States, assuming no other states pass legislation or have the courts rule in favor of the issue during the process.