For Angela Turner and Danielle Hill, a single day can make all the difference in the world.
"Yesterday, our son meant nothing to me on paper," Turner said, gesturing toward the couple's one-month-old baby, Maxwell. "Today, it's different. That's a big deal."
Las Vegans Turner and Hill, who conceived their son through artificial insemination, were among the first couples to receive certificates recognizing them as legal domestic partners under a new Nevada law which took effect Thursday.
The day was historic particularly for gay and lesbian couples, many of whom thought the day would never come in Nevada.
"It's surreal," said Nicole McKinzie, who dropped by the secretary of state's Las Vegas office for a certificate legally recognizing her relationship with longtime partner Katharine Anderson. "You know it's happening, you hear all the buzz about it, but to see it actually go through, it's a really big step."
About 750 same- and opposite-sex couples so far have registered to receive their certificates, which guarantee them many of the same rights and responsibilities as married couples.
Those rights include the ability to make health care decisions for each other, hold community property and automatically assume parentage for children. Debt and property are shared.
"It's a great step forward for civil rights and equality for all couples," said Maggie McLetchie, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. "Some people have been waiting years and years -- too long to count -- for this."
In Carson City, tears fell from the eyes of Larry Davis and Lee W. Cagley as they were handed domestic partnership certificate No. 1 by Secretary of State Ross Miller in the state Capitol.
"We feel very fortunate," said Cagley, an interior designer who redesigned the Governor's Mansion in its original 1909 style when Miller's mother Sandy was Nevada's First Lady.
"Someone had to be No. 1," responded Miller with a grin.
Cagley and Davis, a funeral director, said the right to make decisions for each other is important to them.
"If he got in a car accident, I could make medical decisions for him, visit him in the hospital with no hassle," Cagley said.
"Why does it have to be me in the car accident?" Davis joked.
Besides being domestic partners, Cagley and Davis were legally married on Aug. 3, 2008, in California. Nevada law does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Seven years ago, two-thirds of Nevadans approved the Protection of Marriage constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The new law specifies that domestic partners are not considered married, and does not affect federal laws. That means a person cannot claim a partner as a spouse to file a joint income tax return or secure Social Security benefits of a deceased partner.
The law does state that companies that offer health care benefits to their employees may provide benefits to their domestic partners, though that is not required.
Nevada is now one of 12 states that permit gay and lesbian couples to secure domestic partnerships. Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont allow same-sex couples to marry. New Hampshire will permit same-sex marriages starting Jan. 1.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored the domestic partner law, said the number of Nevadans filing so far is three times what he expected. Most of those pre-registered and requested that the certificates be mailed to them.
Parks said he expects about 2,500 couples to secure legal domestic partnerships by the end of October.
So far, less than 2 percent of registered domestic partnerships in Nevada are opposite-sex couples.
McLetchie emphasized that the new law can help all couples, especially older couple who don't choose to marry because it could affect their benefits.
Domestic partnership forms are available at the secretary of state's offices in Carson City and in the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas.
They also are available online at http://sos.state.nv.us/licensing/securities/domesticpartnership.asp. The cost is $50. Forms must be notarized.
Those who eventually choose to terminate their legal domestic partnerships may do so in one of two ways. Partners who have been registered less than five years, have no minor children or joint property and have waived any right to future financial support may file a "domestic partnership termination form" and pay a $50 fee.
Partners who don't meet those conditions must follow standard Nevada divorce laws.
That was the last thing on the minds of couples who picked up their certificates Thursday. They were celebrating.
"We're just a couple who love each other and want to make sure we're both protected," Turner said. "This is our future."