NEW YORK — Jason Collinswho came out Monday as gay while still an active NBA player, broke one of the last remaining barriers in North America for gays and lesbians in era of constant political gains and ever-growing public acceptance.

In most other realms of public life — including the military, Congress, the corporate boardroom — gays have been taking their place as equals. Until Monday, however, no male athlete had come out as gay while still an active player on any team in the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Jason Collins

“Today’s announcement again shows that gay Americans are our teachers, police officers, nurses, lawyers and even our professional athletes,” said the president of the largest national gay-rights group, Chad Griffin of theHuman Rights Campaign.

“We contribute to every aspect of our American community and deserve the same equal rights as every American,” he said.

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

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U.S. men’s professional sports finally joins gay rights trend – LGBTQ Nation.