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In Las Vegas, gay couples cleared to be married

LAS VEGAS — Gay couples began marrying Thursday in Las Vegas — the self-proclaimed marriage capital of the world — ending a dizzying legal fight that 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 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.

Feet away from the crowd that gathered to witness Atkinson and Howard's union on the steps of the marriage license bureau, another couple wed under a tree just outside the bureau's doors. Dave Parry married Morgan Floyd.

"It's nice not to be a second class citizen anymore," Parry 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 about 3 p.m. Thursday, said Elizabeth Phelps, a clerk in the Carson City marriage license office.

The hopes of gay couples in Nevada had been in limbo since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that gay couples' equal protection rights were violated by same-sex wedding bans in Nevada and Idaho.

In Nevada, the last challenge opposing Nevada gay marriage was dropped early Thursday, and the 9th Circuit again declared that its ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state is "in full force and effect." Clerks in Las Vegas waited for a trial judge to enforce the court's order before they started issuing licenses about 5 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, gay couples in West Virginia began receiving marriage licenses after the state's attorney general dropped his fight opposing same-sex unions. At least one couple was married in a brief civil ceremony outside the courthouse in Huntington, the Herald-Dispatch reported.

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