Frustration turned to elation in the marriage capital of the world Thursday as a dizzying legal wrangle ended with gay couples getting marriage licenses in Las Vegas.
Couples cheered at the marriage license bureau when days of anticipation became reality after Clark County Clerk Diana Alba began granting same-sex partners the right to wed 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 down at their marriage license, the first issued in Las Vegas.
"We're walking on clouds," Carillo said. "This is unreal."
About 430 miles north, a clerk in the Carson City marriage license office, Elizabeth Phelps, says Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith became the first same-sex couple in the state to get a license about 3 p.m. Thursday.
Their hopes of getting married had been in limbo since the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday that gay couples' equal protection rights were violated by same-sex wedding bans in Nevada and Idaho.
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.
In Nevada, the last challenge opposing Nevada gay marriage was dropped early Thursday, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals again declared that its ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state is "in full force and effect." Clerks waited for a trial judge to enforce the court's order before they started issuing licenses late Thursday afternoon.
It came not long after Alba apologized to about five gay couples waiting at the Las Vegas marriage license bureau.
"Nobody is more frustrated than I am," she had said. "It really is truly out of our hands. I'm kind of paralyzed."
Gay-owned chapel Viva Las Vegas, which features Elvis impersonators at the altar and themed weddings, had readied plans to offer special packages for same-sex couples.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.