Once homophobic NBA star first to sign petition supporting gay marriage in Fla.

Tim Hardaway

Tim Hardaway

MIAMI — Retired NBA player Tim Hardaway, once one of the most vocally homophobic professional athletes in the country, was the first person to sign a petition seeking to repeal Florida‘s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Hardaway, a former guard for the Miami Heat, signed the petition on Wednesday at an event in Miami sponsored by Equal Marriage Florida, the group behind the petition.

Tim Hardaway

“If you’re married you’re married – you should see your significant other in the hospital, make choices for your significant other if you need to make those choices,” he said as he attached his signature to the petition.

Hardaway’s support for legalizing same-sex marriage in Florida is a dramatic turnaround from his highly publicized 2007 radio interview when he proclaimed, “I hate gay people. So I let it be known. I don’t like gay people. I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic.”

The comments caused a firestorm at the time, with Hardaway being blacklisted from many league-sanctioned events.

Since then, Hardaway said he has made a genuine effort to reevaluate his views.

“I opened my eyes and went to counseling,” he told the El Paso Times in 2011. Since then, he has been an active participant in the gay rights movement, becoming involved in with the Trevor Project and offering support to Jason Collins after he became the first active NBA player to come out in April.

On Wednesday, Hardaway said the comments he made in that 2007 interview were “truly, truly wrong.”

The petition, which needs at least 680,000 signatures to make the ballot, seeks to repeal Amendment 2, which passed in November 2008 by a vote of 61.9% in favor and 38.1% opposed, banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions under Florida’s state constitution.

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