LAS VEGAS – Gay couples have started to get married in Las Vegas, a city filled with chapels that for them had been off-limits until Thursday evening.
Thomas Topovski cried as the Clark County clerk announced to cheers that gay marriage licenses would be issued, bringing same-sex unions to the marriage capital of the world amid a flurry of court decisions this week that tore down legal barriers nationwide.
Topovski and Jefferson Ruck, his partner of 14 years, returned to the marriage bureau in Las Vegas on Thursday after standing in line for hours the day before.
About 10 same-sex couples were waiting 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 Carrillo, and looked down at their marriage license, the first issued in Las Vegas.
“We’re walking on clouds,” Carrillo said. “This is unreal.”
For gay couples in Nevada, the licenses ended long-felt frustration that increased by the day as they watched legal wrangling go in favor of others elsewhere, while they could do nothing but wait.
A Supreme Court decision Monday that denied appeals from five states seeking to retain their bans on same-sex unions effectively made gay marriage legal in about 30 states.
Days of weddings, court rulings and confusion followed, and gay couples in West Virginia began receiving marriage licenses Thursday – hours ahead of Las Vegas.
A judge enforced a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Nevada to start issuing licenses.
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.
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 then waited for a judge to enforce the decision before issuing licenses.
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