At first, the Florida couple was concerned when they were approached at the Clark County Marriage Bureau.
Then James Johnson and Matthew Tipple learned they were the 20,000th same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Clark County.
“I thought it might have been like a church group or something that was coming to talk to us,” Tipple said, “so we were a little put off.”
Instead, the couple from DeBary, Florida, received a special certificate and a wedding package from Caesars Entertainment that includes a dedicated wedding coordinator, personal photographer and a 45-minute ceremony, as well a night’s stay at Caesars Palace and tickets to see Celine Dion.
The couple, who have been together for more than 10 years, came to Las Vegas so Tipple could attend a business conference. Johnson said they decided to take advantage of as much free time as they could get.
“And we thought, ‘How much more memorable of a vacation could it be, other than to get married in Vegas?’” he said.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in Nevada in 2014, two years after Lambda Legal, an LGBT civil rights organization, filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of eight Nevada couples.
After a loss in the lower court, the case went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that the ban violated same-sex couples’ 14th Amendment rights.
“There was a time not too long ago when we never would have even been able to get married,” Tipple said. “I think that now we’re the 20,000th just right here that’s done it, that’s just mind-blowing.”
The 10,000th same-sex marriage license in Clark County was granted to two women in 2017.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned all state bans on same-sex marriage in 2015. A 2017 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law determined that over 1 million same-sex couples in the U.S. were married.
“Maybe we are a milestone number,” Johnson said, “but I think every same-sex marriage is a milestone.”
By the numbers
—Clark County has about eight same-sex couples per 1,000 households.
—17 percent of same-sex couples in Nevada are raising children.
—The average age of same-sex couples in the U.S. is 45.
—LGBT people make up 5.5 percent of Nevada’s population, the third highest rate in the nation.
—More than 7,000 LGBT people in Nevada live with a married or unmarried partner.
Source: the Williams Institute at UCLA