Nevada begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples
Nevada issued its first marriage license to a gay couple on Thursday as a district judge lifted the final hurdle to same-sex matrimony in the state, hours after a conservative group withdrew a last-ditch effort to block the change.
The move came as hurdles to gay marriage fell in West Virginia even as other states pushed back against federal court actions this week, including by the U.S. Supreme Court, that could extend legal gay marriage to 35 states.
Tuesday’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling legalizing gay marriage in Nevada and Idaho came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would leave intact lower court rulings that overturned bans in five states.
Carson City appeared to become the first county in Nevada to hand out such a license, and U.S. District Judge James Mahan issued a permanent injunction barring the state from preventing gay couples from marrying.
A woman who answered the phone at the marriage license bureau in the state capital confirmed they had received the green light, adding: “Yes, we just issued one.”
County clerks elsewhere in the state, including in Las Vegas, had been holding back from issuing licenses out of an abundance of caution until the last legal questions were resolved.
Tara Borelli, an attorney for eight Nevada couples who challenged the ban, said the last obstacle was cleared after the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage withdrew its requests for a stay of the 9th Circuit decision. Nevada state officials are content to let the ruling stand.
Diana Alba, clerk of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, had earlier said her that “heart breaks” for couples who have been waiting for permits, and that her office would be open until midnight once she had authority to issue the licenses.
DELAY IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Amid a fast-moving legal landscape, a U.S. Supreme Court justice put gay marriage on hold in Idaho on Wednesday by granting state officials’ request for a stay.
A federal judge in Alaska, which is also part of the 9th Circuit, will hear arguments on Friday in a lawsuit challenging that state’s prohibition.
In South Carolina, the state Supreme Court ordered state judges on Thursday not to issue licenses to same-sex couples until a federal court rules on whether the state can continue enforcing its ban.
The South Carolina Supreme Court’s instruction came after Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon accepted license applications from 19 couples on Wednesday.
Condon had indicated he would begin issuing the documents after a mandatory 24-hour wait period, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s action that ended bans in states including Virginia.
South Carolina is bound by the same regional appeals court ruling that struck down Virginia’s prohibition, as is North Carolina, where gay couples on Thursday anticipated federal judges would strike down its ban.
Some couples gathered at the Charleston courthouse said they were disappointed by the delay but confident they would soon get the right to marry.
“It’s making history in South Carolina that applications are even being accepted,” said Jennifer Rose, 28, who was seeking a license with her fiancée, Sara Meadows, also 28.
In West Virginia, which lies in the same appeals court jurisdiction, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he would respect the Supreme Court’s action despite complaining it “improperly displaces state and local decision-making.”
(Reporting by Sandra Chereb and Harriet McLeod; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington, Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, and Steve Quinn in Juneau; Writing by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Will Dunham, Eric Walsh and Sandra Maler)