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NBA player's decision to come out reflects broad gains, growing public support for gay rights

By coming out as gay while still an active NBA player, Jason Collins has broken one of the last remaining barriers for gays and lesbians in era of rapid political gains and growing public acceptance.

In almost every other realm of public life, gays have been taking their place as equals. Until Monday, however, no male athlete had come out as gay while still an active player in the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Beyond sports, the most dramatic barometer of shifting attitudes has been public opinion on same-sex marriage. The latest Gallup Poll pegged national support at 53 percent, up nearly twofold from 27 percent in 1996.

And with a legislative vote last week, Rhode Island is on track to become the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage.