Oct 8, 2014 3:23 AM

Land of wedding chapels ready for gay weddings

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) The marriage licenses are already gender neutral. Chapel photographers have been practicing shooting two brides wearing white gowns. And an ordained Elvis will be waiting at the end of the aisle.

Las Vegas, the land of wedding chapels, is ready for gay weddings.

On Tuesday, Nevada and Idaho joined the growing number of states where same-sex marriage is legal when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gay couples' equal protection rights were violated by the gay marriage bans in both states.

The Marriage License Bureau in Las Vegas is expected to issue licenses for same-sex couples starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Idaho will start Wednesday morning.

Las Vegas saw this moment coming and prepared accordingly. The county's marriage licenses went gender-neutral a couple weeks ago, just in case.

The Chapel of the Flowers had its photographers practice with models to see how they might best shoot two brides in gowns.

"We are ready to accept any couple walking through our doors," said Nicole Robertson, the chapel's director of operations.

Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver said the luxury hotel-casino company "will be prepared to host weddings for everyone and anyone who is in love."

Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapels, which is gay-owned and operated, already hosts about 500 same-sex commitment ceremonies each year, said General Manager Brian Mills, who doubles as an officiant, often times in costume. In October, one of the chapel's busiest months, he could be Dracula for one couple and the Grim Reaper the next.

In its decision Tuesday about Nevada and Idaho's gay marriage bans, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws treating people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest. He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.

The decision came a day after the Supreme Court turned away state appeals, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in several more states, bringing the U.S. total to 30.

The original Nevada lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, was filed in April 2012 on behalf of eight couples in the state. It said the 2002 state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples in Nevada the same rights, dignity and security that other married couples enjoy.

Sevcik's partner, Mary Baranovich, said they looked forward to a ceremony with family and friends in Carson City.

"When Bev and I met, I must admit we never thought this day would come," Baranovich said. "But now it's here, and how sweet it is."

In Idaho, Sue Latta, with Traci Ehlers, sued the state last year to compel the state to recognize their 2008 marriage in California. Three other couples also joined the lawsuit to invalidate Idaho's same-sex marriage ban.

"Taxes are easier, real estate is easier, parenting is easier, end-of-life planning is easier," Latta said.

In Las Vegas, Jim McGinnis has been waiting three years for gay marriage when he first opened his chapels to offer commitment ceremonies to same-sex couples, hosting a few hundred each year in addition to traditional weddings.

On Tuesday, he flew a flag bearing the Human Rights Campaign's equality logo in front of his downtown Las Vegas location of Chapelle de l'amour, a block from the marriage license bureau.

Logan Seven, 54, a limousine driver for McGinnis' wedding chapel, said he always wanted to get married on a beach, barefoot and in a white tuxedo. He might swap the beach for Vegas after Tuesday's ruling.

"Trying to find the right man is the hard part," he said.

The Chicago native said he was surprised when he moved to Las Vegas and learned that the town that touts itself as a marriage capital didn't allow gay marriages.

"It's a no-brainer," Seven said. "Love is love."


Associated Press reporters Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Rebecca Boone and Kimberlee Kruesi in Boise and Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.


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