Same-sex couples began marrying in both Nevada and West Virginia Thursday evening, as the number of marriage equality states officially climbed to 27.
West Virginia had actually not had a ruling on its ban on same-sex marriage directly, but it was implicated by the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in neighboring Virginia, which became binding when the Supreme Court decided this week not to hear an appeal. On Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced that he would no longer defend the ban, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in turn directed state agencies to begin implementing the new precedent.
Though the paperwork has not been updated, the Department of Health and Human Resources told county clerks to use the existing marriage license forms until it can be adjusted to accommodate variations other than one bride and one groom. In Kanawha County, Chris Bostic and David Epp of Charleston were the first couple to marry Thursday afternoon.
A few hours later, a federal judge ordered Nevada to stop enforcing its marriage ban. The Ninth Circuit had ruled on Tuesday that it was unconstitutional, but for procedural reasons, same-sex couples could not start marrying until a district court judge issued an injunction. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) declared, “This action brings finality to the issue of same sex marriage in Nevada.”
Here’s a video of the first same-sex marriage license being issued in Las Vegas:
The marriage decisions this week are still unraveling in other states. The Ninth Circuit also ruled against Idaho’s marriage ban, but the Supreme Court granted a temporary state to give the state a chance to appeal. Justice Anthony Kennedy ordered that a response be filed by Thursday evening, which means the Court could act before the weekend even arrives.
North Carolina is another state where a change could come quite soon. The state stopped defending the ban back in July, but several GOP lawmakers, led by House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis (R), are trying to take up the fight. To advise them, they’ve even hired National Organization for Marriage Chairman John Eastman. While their motion to intervene in the case has not yet been considered, a federal judge ruled Thursday night that they will not be granted the eight-day extension they requested. They have until noon Friday to file their finalized motion to intervene, and the case could advance — or be resolved — quite quickly after that.
The other remaining states impacted by Monday’s Supreme Court actions are South Carolina, Kansas, and Wyoming. Those states are continuing to implement and defend their bans until a federal judge directs them to do otherwise, but same-sex couples have filed for immediate relief, citing the decisions in the Fourth and Tenth Circuits respectively. The Wyoming case will be heard next week.
Meanwhile, the full impact of the Ninth Circuit ruling will not be evident until the Supreme Court resolves the situation in Idaho. It’s basically the same waiting game that Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, and Oklahoma were experiencing prior to this week. It could be soon, unless a decision in another circuit prompts the Justices to rethink whether they want to hear a case. If the Court follows its own precedent and lets the Ninth Circuit ruling stand like it did the other circuits Monday, then it would similarly be binding for Alaska, Arizona, and Montana.
North Carolina and Idaho are both marriage equality states now too!