On Monday, Nevada's Senate kickstarted the state's journey down the road toward ultimately repealing a constitutional ban on gay marriage that was first approved by voters in the year 2000.

Lawmakers who helped pass Senate Joint Resolution 13 by a margin of 12 to 9 said public opinion has since shifted in favor of same-sex marriage and a repeal of the ban.

The vote to overturn the ban followed an hour-long floor debate during which Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) surprised many colleagues by taking the opportunity to formally come out.

"I'm 44 years old. I have a daughter. I'm black. I'm gay," Atkinson said, the emotion clear in his voice. "I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male."

Echoing the sentiments expressed by a New Zealand lawmaker ahead of that country's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, Atkinson assured opponents of marriage equality that "if this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place."

But Nevada still had a ways to go before it joined the nine states (and DC) that currently grant same-sex partners the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

SJR13 will need to be re-approved by the Legislature in 2015, at which point the measure will be added to the 2016 ballot, giving Nevadans a chance to set things right.

[H/T: Towleroad, video via KLAS-TV]