Daniel Carroll and Dayvin Bartolome stood on the steps of the marriage license bureau in Las Vegas and researched where they might tie the knot after being together for 14 years.
They ran through the options and joked about whether an Elvis Presley or Celine Dion impersonator would be available to perform the ceremony.
In the end, they settled on a location up the street whose quickie wedding offerings include drive-up, chapel and terrace ceremonies. Less than three hours later, they held hands in front of a lighted gazebo at the Vegas Weddings chapel as the officiant declared, “I hereby pronounce you husband and husband.”
Carroll and Bartolome were among the first gay couples to wed in Las Vegas on Thursday as same-sex marriages arrived in the self-described wedding capital of the world. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Nevada’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday.
About 10 same-sex couples were waiting in line at the Clark County clerk’s as the announcement came shortly after 5 p.m. that gay marriage licenses would be issued, eliciting cheers and tears of joy from the crowd. Officials said the county Marriage License Bureau issued 40 licenses to same-sex couples Thursday.
“It’s amazing. This is it,” Theo Small said 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.”
Opponents have continued to push back against gay marriage, saying such unions are unconstitutional. Days of weddings, court decisions and confusion have followed a Supreme Court decision Monday that denied appeals from several states and effectively made gay marriage legal in some 30 states.
West Virginia officials began issuing gay marriage licenses Thursday, prompting further frustration in Nevada.
“Nobody is more frustrated than I am,” said Clark County Clerk Diana Alba, apologizing to a handful of gay couples at the Las Vegas marriage license bureau late Thursday afternoon.
Shortly after, however, a judge enforced a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed her to start issuing licenses.
About 430 miles north, Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith became the first same-sex couple in the state to get a license.
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. They plan to be married Saturday with a gathering of family and friends.
“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?”
Todd Larkin, president of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, issued a statement late Thursday that said his group plans to ask the entire 9th Circuit for a rehearing and request the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.
“Man-woman marriage is constitutional,” Larkin said. “The coalition is confident that, in the end, the constitutionality of man-woman marriage will be upheld.”
Shortly after the flurry of weddings, however, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement that declared “this action brings finality to the issue of same-sex marriage in Nevada.”
As Carroll and Bartolome exchanged rings, Bartolome’s sister held an iPhone close to their hands so their mother in Hilo, Hawaii could watch every second of the ceremony.
“I wish I was there,” Irene Suzuki said after the ceremony, adding that she understood why they did it with such haste.
“Get married and we’ll do the party later,” she said she told them.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.
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