Openly gay basketball player helps launch Ore. Republican group supporting same-sex marriage

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The first group of Republicans in Oregon in support of same-sex marriage launched its organization Thursday night in Downtown Portland. NBA center Jason Collins, the first male American professional athlete to ever come out as gay, helped "Freedom Oregon" kick off its initiative to get same-sex marriage legalized in the November election.

Collins said it's a coincidence the group launched on the same day as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced her decision to not defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in court because she doesn't believe it can withstand a federal constitutional challenge. Oregon is the sixth state to not defend its ban on same-sex marriage.

"I think it's another step forward as far as the road to treating people with equality and acceptance," said Collins.

More than 100 Republican leaders and activists attended Freedom Oregon's launch party at Cerulean Skies Winery in The Pearl District. The group bills itself as "an all-volunteer coalition of Republicans and center-right Independent and non-affiliated voters who are committed to helping pass Oregon's Freedom to Marry initiative in the 2014 election cycle."

Collins said he attended the event at the request of an old college friend who's involved with the group.

"It doesn't matter if you're a republican, democrat, independent, it's about acceptance and coming together," said Collins.

He told the world in April 2013 that he's gay. He has played center on several NBA teams since 2001, most recently with the Washington Wizards. He's been a free agent since July 2013.

"The last 10 months have been incredible. I got to meet so many great people, work with so many great organizations," Collins explained.

Collins decided to come out in February 2013 when he was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Wizards. He told KATU News reporter Hillary Lake he wasn't being true to himself or anyone else.

"When you go to a new team you sort of have to reintroduce yourself and start your "CIA", I called it my "CIA" back-story of, 'Oh, I have a girlfriend back in Los Angeles,' and I'm like, 'There's no girlfriend," but it gets tiring telling that lie over and over again," said Collins.

His lifestyle is no longer a secret. Neither is the fact that he has a shot on a new NBA team. He worked out with the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week.

When asked about the workout, Collins said, "No (comment), not at this time."

Until he can comment, he's lending his voice to Freedom Oregon and other groups who need it.