NV Senate Majority Leader discusses uptick in diversity

CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) Walking through the halls of the Nevada Legislature, at least through Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson's eyes, the progress is evident as he describes seeing past photos of lawmakers.

“The picture I took, I believe, is from 1971--all 21 are white men. White older men, and I took a picture of the one of this session and there's three African American, four LGBT members and ten women including the lieutenant governor.”

The Democratic Senator from Vegas says he never sought out politics; it's simply where he belongs, adding, “What drives you to continue to come back is that these issues start to pile up and you want to be a part of it.”

Atkinson has many titles. He's a father, entrepreneur, and an open LGBT man in Nevada politics. He was catapulted into a new spotlight when he made his announcement of being a gay man on the Senate floor in April 2013. As he recounts, “During a floor debate I kind of outed myself during a speech that I gave and I remember it going viral."

The Senate Majority Leader joins a handful of open LGBT members of the Legislature. Atkinson beams with joy, being immersed in a diverse surge in the Silver State. He's one of a handful of African Americans in leadership in the state capital and among a majority-female legislature, adding, “I think we are one of two legislative bodies that has a majority leader and speaker are African American."

He calls it progress, continuous improvement and growth for Nevada politics. “There's 13 of us and so we're really really diverse, probably one of the more diverse in the country and so we're proud of that fact,” Atkinson tells us.

February, he says, isn't the only time to celebrate heritage as he explains, “I think that we should be celebrating ourselves throughout the year and I don't think we need to have a designated month.” Atkinson says every day is joy to walk these halls as a lawmaker representing one of the most diverse legislatures in America.