Celebration, waiting in Nevada after court strikes down state's gay marriage ban

Associated Press

Gay rights groups celebrated Tuesday after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Nevada's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even though clerks were awaiting further legal clearance to begin issuing licenses.

WAITING GAME

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The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for a final order invalidating the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. Washoe County Clerk Nancy Parent said she was waiting for the go-ahead from the court or the Nevada attorney general before giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

She was ready for when that moment comes — her office already had printed gender-neutral license applications in preparation for the ruling.

The Clark County clerk, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto were mum shortly after the ruling.

But others, including Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., lauded the decision and predicted gay marriage soon would be allowed across the country.

"This decision, along with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to decline hearing similar appeals, reaffirms the belief of so many Americans that love is love," Horsford said.

PLAINTIFFS REJOICE

The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the ban issued a statement saying they were elated about the decision.

"We are just so delighted that finally, after 43 years together, we will soon be able to get married," Beverly Sevcik said in a statement issued through Lambda Legal.

The original Nevada lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, was filed in April 2012 on behalf of eight Nevada couples. It said the 2002 state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples in Nevada the same rights, dignity and security that other married couples enjoy.

Sevcik's partner, Mary Baranovich, said they looked forward to a ceremony with family and friends in Carson City.

"When Bev and I met, I must admit we never thought this day would come," Baranovich said. "But now it's here, and how sweet it is."

WEDDING BOOM?

In Clark County, where more than 80,000 marriage licenses were issued last year, chapels and other wedding businesses braced for a boom.

"It's just been a crazy day for us," said Brian Mills, general manager of Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapels, which is gay-owned and operated.

Mills said the chapel holds about 500 same-sex commitment ceremonies annually, and October is the busiest month for weddings overall, including some with Dracula or Grim Reaper themes.

Washoe County issued 37,000 marriage licenses during the peak year of 1978 and only 8,800 last year. Officials there hoped the new law would give the wedding business a much-needed bump.

"I know that our wedding business has really suffered," Parent said. "We hope that this will bring a lot of business that I know they'd be tickled to have."

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Associated Press writers Kim Pierceall and Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.