Weddings, court rulings and confusion are defining a week that started with the U.S. Supreme Court denying appeals from five states seeking to retain their bans on same-sex marriage, followed by a ruling overturning some bans in Western states. Here's a rundown of the most recent developments:
GOING TO THE CHAPEL
Gay couples in Las Vegas cheered at the marriage license bureau when days of anticipation became reality and the county clerk began granting same-sex partners the right to wed shortly after 5 p.m. About 430 miles north, Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith became the first same-sex couple in the state to get a license about 3 p.m. Thursday. Gay couples in West Virginia also 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.
The marriage confusion even tripped up someone who should definitely know better.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy mistakenly blocked the start of same-sex marriage in Nevada in an order that spawned confusion among state officials and disappointment in couples hoping to be wed. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed the mix-up Thursday, saying Kennedy's order issued a day earlier was an error that the justice corrected with a second order several hours later. By that time, however, Nevada officials had decided to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday until they could be certain the legal situation was settled.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada illegal on Tuesday. Idaho quickly asked the Supreme Court for a delay, but Nevada planned to allow same-sex weddings to proceed. The trouble arose because Idaho's request to the court included a document from the appeals court that listed case numbers for both states.
MOVEMENT IN OTHER STATES
— 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 Cabell County Courthouse, The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported.
— In Nevada, frustration mounted as a federal appeals court restated its ruling that gay couples can legally wed in the state, but clerks refused budge. Officials in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County said they would begin issuing gay marriage licenses after a trial judge acts on the order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was unclear, however, when that might happen.
— Four gay couples in Idaho asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex weddings in accordance with the 9th Circuit ruling earlier this week. The filing came in opposition to the emergency delay from Justice Kennedy that caused confusion Wednesday.
— The Arkansas Supreme Court refused to delay a challenge to that state's gay marriage ban, rejecting the state attorney general who had asked the court to put the case on hold.
— The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered lower state courts not to issue same-sex marriage licenses until a federal judge decides whether the state constitution's ban on the unions is legal. The move came a day after a judge in Charleston had begun accepting applications.
— A federal judge in North Carolina considered a request from ACLU lawyers asking him to strike down the state's ban.
— The wedding plans of gay couples across Kansas remain in limbo, with all but one of the state's 105 counties refusing to issue marriage licenses.
Estonia on Thursday became the first former Soviet nation to legalize gay partnerships, while Kyrgyzstan — another ex-Soviet republic thousands of miles east — considers anti-gay legislation. The parallel moves reflect starkly divergent paths taken by the countries that once were parts of the Soviet empire. In Estonia, lawmakers voted 40-38 to approve a partnership act that recognizes the civil unions of all couples regardless of sex. Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill. The new law will gives those in civil unions — heterosexual or gay — almost the same rights as married couples, including financial, social and health benefits provided by the government and legal protection for children. It does not give adoption rights for couples in such unions but does allow one partner to adopt the biological child of the other.
WAITING ON CINCINNATI
There also is growing anticipation for a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati.
A three-judge panel heard arguments two months ago on challenges to gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, the biggest hearing of its kind on the issue.
Its eventual ruling could help determine when or even whether the Supreme Court takes up the issue. There has been no indication of a timetable by the 6th Circuit.
SO, HOW MANY STATES ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE?
It's a little complicated. Before the Supreme Court's denial, there were 19 states that firmly allowed gay marriage.
The Supreme Court's action Monday added five states, plus six others that were affected because they were in the same federal circuits that appealed. That would make 30 states allowing gay marriage, but some of them are still trying to block it or haven't yet instituted mechanisms for weddings.
So, how many states allow gay marriage? Thirty, give or take a few.