Jefferson Ruck and Thomas Topovski have waited 14 years to get married.
They’ll have to wait at least another day.
No marriage licenses were issued to them or any other same-sex couples in Clark County on Wednesday. County Clerk Diana Alba doubts any will be issued on Thursday either.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Ruck said toward the end of a long, fruitless day standing in line for a license at the Clark County marriage bureau. “At this point, the clerk needs to come down and tell us what to do.”
Alba, who was eventually trotted out to speak with the media around 4 p.m. Wednesday, said county officials have decided to wait for another ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before going ahead.
“As soon as we can, we will issue the licenses,” she told reporters gathered near the county marriage bureau. “We want to be sure that we’re ready to serve the couples when they come in.”
A half-dozen couples had already stopped by the marriage office by 2 p.m. Wednesday, when county officials had said they would start issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
That process was delayed when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued an order staying any same-sex marriages in Idaho and Nevada.
The 9th Circuit had on Tuesday ruled that the bans in both states were unconstitutional.
Kennedy later modified his order so that the stay was maintained only in Idaho, where state officials had asked for such a decision.
Nevada state officials indicated Tuesday they would not challenge the 9th Circuit Court’s decision.
But later Wednesday, the Nevada group supporting the state’s ban on gay marriage, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, filed for a stay in the Nevada case, and asked that the court’s mandate finalizing its ruling to allow gay marriage be rescinded.
In response to that request, the 9th Circuit panel asked all parties in the Nevada case, including state officials, to respond to the coalition’s motion by 5 p.m. Thursday.
While the mandate overturning Nevada’s ban has not been rescinded, local officials have opted to wait until the 9th Circuit rules on the coalition’s motion. A ruling is expected quickly after all the parties have filed their responses with the court.
Meanwhile, back at the marriage bureau, Ruck and Topovski — the first Southern Nevada couple in line for a same-sex marriage license — had started to regret their decision to show up an hour before county officials said they would issue same-sex marriage licenses.
County marriage clerks — now stuck in the administrative purgatory created by a two-day wave of conflicting court rulings — found themselves unable to accept same-sex license applicants without first getting the go-ahead from county attorneys. They seemed similarly unprepared to turn those couples away for good.
Some clerks sent couples to the back of the line, others just called straight couples up to the counter instead. Eventually, staffers split off same-sex marriage applicants into their own line, explaining they would soon hand out line passes so those couples could return the next morning without losing their spot in line.
Ruck and Topovski, like just about all of the half-dozen same-sex couples queued up at 201 E. Clark Ave., found themselves frustrated by the bureaucratic speed bumps, but more than willing to wait it out.
“I’ve waited 61 years for this,” Ruck said. “I never thought I’d see this day. … So I’ll wait a little longer.”
Georgia Covey and Anna Singson, the third same-sex couple in line, were twice called up to the service counter and twice turned back. That was in part, Covey suspects, because the clerk mistook her partner for a man.
More than two hours later, they were finally told to go home.
Dave Parry and Morgan Floyd, both recent transplants from Louisiana, planned to circle back to the marriage bureau by the end of the week. The pair had already spent more than an hour at the front of the line, watching straight couples file past.
“We went through all the stages of grief this morning — denial, anger, acceptance, all of it,” Parry said. “We’ll be here all night if we have to, or we’ll come back. … What other choices do we have?”
Not many, according to Annette Magnus, spokeswoman for gay rights advocates at Freedom Nevada.
Reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, Magnus said her group was hopeful, but not optimistic, that the county would get its act together by the time the marriage bureau closed at midnight.
Ward Curtin, Magnus’ boss, echoed those sentiments in a statement Wednesday.
“Despite the confusion of today’s events, it is only a matter of time before loving, committed couples can be married in the Silver State,” said Curtin.
“What we have seen today are only temporary bumps in the road on the way to the freedom to marry for all in Nevada.
“These bumps are nothing more than procedural, temporary delays. Again we know that it is difficult, but we ask couples to be patient as the court clarifies when marriage licenses can be issued by the county clerks.”
Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller delivered a sliver of good news to Southern Nevada’s same-sex couples late Wednesday.
Miller said in a statement that after consulting with the Nevada attorney general’s office, his office had determined that couples would not have to terminate their state-approved domestic partnership before getting married.
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