LAS VEGAS — Frustration turned to elation Thursday as a dizzying legal wrangle ended with gay couples receiving marriage licenses in Las Vegas – the marriage capital of the world – and other cities across Nevada.
Thomas Topovski cried as the Clark County clerk announced to cheers that marriage licenses would finally be issued. He and Jefferson Ruck, his partner of 14 years, returned Thursday for their marriage license after standing in line for hours the day before.
About 10 same-sex couples were standing in line as the announcement came shortly after 5 p.m.
“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.”
State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson wed Sherwood Howard shortly after gay couples began receiving marriage licenses, becoming the first same-sex couple to marry in Las Vegas.
About 430 miles north, Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith became the first same-sex couple in the state to get a license at about 3 p.m. Thursday, said Elizabeth Phelps, a clerk in the Carson City marriage license office.
The hopes of gay couples in Nevada had been in limbo since the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by same-sex wedding bans in Nevada and Idaho.
In Nevada, the last challenge opposing Nevada gay marriage 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 is “in full force and effect.” Clerks waited for a trial judge to enforce the court’s order before they started issuing licenses at about 5 p.m. Thursday.
It came not long after Clark County Clerk Diana Alba apologized to about five gay couples waiting at the Las Vegas marriage license bureau.
“Nobody is more frustrated than I am,” she said. “It really is truly out of our hands. I’m kind of paralyzed.”
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.
Meanwhile, gay couples in West Virginia began receiving marriage licenses after the state’s attorney general dropped his fight opposing same-sex unions. At least one couple was married in a brief civil ceremony outside the courthouse in Huntington, the Herald-Dispatch reported.
Nevada becomes the 27th U.S. state where same-sex marriage is legal.
The Clark County marriage bureau is open until Midnight.Developing story. This report will be updated.