After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on cases legalizing same-sex marriage Monday, Nevadans figured it was just a matter of time before the ruling’s effects trickled down to our state. However, it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that gay-marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho are illegal. In a detailed concurring opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote: “The fundamental right to marriage, repeatedly recognized by the Supreme Court … is properly understood as including the right to marry an individual of one’s choice. That right applies to same-sex marriage, just as it does to opposite-sex marriage.”
The Nevada marriage ban’s demise began when state Senator Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, introduced a Senate joint resolution in 2013. “It was time,” Segerblom says. “The fact that we prohibit gay marriage in Nevada is really outrageous. It was time to try to challenge it. So I started it, but a lot of people jumped on board.” He continued, “It’s crazy that this is not the Gay Marriage Capital of the World. People come here to have a good time here; they should be able to get married here.”
An informal celebration and news conference was called at Downtown’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center on Tuesday evening. Local residents, a number of local politicians and seemingly all the news vans in the Valley congregated as couples and families rejoiced.
State Senator Kelvin Atkinson took the stage to discuss how the state’s legal journey had also been a personal one, as Atkinson came out on the Senate floor during the 2013 debate. He talked about his own relationship and how he and his partner, Sherwood Howard, had been waiting for this day. “I didn’t want to go to another state,” Atkinson said, smiling at Howard. With the crowd encouraging him, Atkinson popped the question, Howard said yes, and the beaming couple embraced in front of a room full of cheers and tears.
The multimillion-dollar question is, of course, when can same-sex couples start getting hitched? Well … initially, the Clark County clerk had been ready to roll Wednesday afternoon. Then Idaho asked for a stay on the ruling, which Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granted and, since the case covered both Nevada and Idaho, the stay also covered our state. Kennedy attempted to render his ruling specific to Idaho but, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the county’s Facebook page stated: “It is unclear at this time when we will be able to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”
However, Idaho’s injunction only lasts until Thursday. Perhaps that will give Clark County time to change the bit on their website that asserts, “Nevada law allows only a male and a female to be married.” Not anymore.