LAS VEGAS—Gay couples began getting married Thursday in Las Vegas—the self-proclaimed marriage capital of the world—ending a dizzying legal fight that had kept them waiting for days.
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. Atkinson, during an emotional legislative debate on same-sex unions last year, stood before the chamber and announced that he is gay.
A few feet from the crowd that had gathered to witness Atkinson and Howard’s union on the steps of the marriage license bureau, Dave Parry married Morgan Floyd under a tree just outside the bureau’s doors.
“Oh, my, gosh. It’s done,” Parry said, before embracing Floyd.
“It’s nice not to be a second class citizen anymore,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
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.
Best said in a telephone interview that she and Smith were surprised to get their license when they showed up at the Carson City marriage office with the $75 filing fee they borrowed from Smith’s mother.
“We went to see what would happen, and they gave us the license,” Best said. “I feel amazing. So happy. Love doesn’t discriminate, so why should we?”
“Nothing,” Smith said, “stands in the middle of true love.”
Best and Smith have been together almost 7 years, and they plan to be married Saturday with a gathering of family and friends.
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 waited for a trial judge to enforce the court’s order before they started issuing licenses just before sunset.
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.
Shortly after the flurry of weddings, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement, declaring “this action brings finality to the issue of same-sex marriage in Nevada.”
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.