Nevada began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on Thursday after a district judge removed the final ban to same-sex matrimony in the state and hours after a conservative group withdrew a last-ditch effort to block the change. So gay-owned chapel Viva Las Vegas, which features Elvis impersonators at the altar and themed weddings, had readied plans to offer special packages for same-sex couples.
“It’s amazing, this is it,” said Theo Small as he stood next to his partner, Antioco Carillo, and looked down at their marriage license, the first issued in Las Vegas. “We’re walking on clouds,” Carillo said. “This is unreal.”
About 430 miles north, Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith became the first same-sex couple in the state to get a license about 3 p.m. Thursday. Gay couples in West Virginia also began receiving marriage licenses after the state’s attorney general dropped his fight opposing same-sex unions.
The Supreme Court Monday declined an opportunity to rule definitely one way or the other on the question of same-sex marriages. The hopes of gay couples in Nevada had been in limbo since the 9th Circuit ruled at the beginning of the week that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by same-sex wedding bans in Nevada and Idaho. So on Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada.
The ruling triggered a Supreme Court memo that left Idaho gay couples in tears after they had gathered early at courthouses hoping to marry. A clarification hours later said the ruling did not apply to Nevada, but clerks didn’t budge.
The last Nevada challenge was dropped early Thursday, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals again declared that its ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state was “in full force and effect.” Clerks waited for a trial judge to enforce the court’s order before they started issuing licenses just before sunset.
State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson wed Sherwood Howard shortly after gay couples began receiving marriage licenses. Atkinson, during an emotional legislative debate on same-sex unions last year, stood before the chamber and announced that he is gay.
That raises the number of states where same-sex marriage is or will soon be allowed to 35, but anyhow some of them are still trying to block it or haven’t yet instituted mechanisms for weddings.