Same-sex marriage in Nevada marks a major milestone

Nevada is home to approximately 7,140 same-sex couples, according to a 2010 estimate from the Williams Institute, and now those couples have the option of becoming legally married. A federal court overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage in October 2014, making way for lesbian and gay couples to be treated in the same manner as straight couples for purposes of state law.

This will help streamline the process of securing parental rights, insurance benefits, asset sharing and other important considerations for same-sex couples. It will also provide married same-sex couples with the right to divorce as well as protection under the laws that apply to divorce-related issues such as child support, child custody, spousal support and division of debts and assets.

A brief history of same-sex marriage in Nevada

In Nevada, the legalization of same-sex marriage followed a different path than it did in many of the other states that have taken similar action in recent years. In 2002, Nevada voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that banned marriages between same-sex partners. Beginning in 2009, however, Nevada recognized domestic partnerships between same-sex and opposite-sex partners, thus providing them with access to some of the rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples.

In 2012, an LGBT-focused civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against the state of Nevada in an effort to strike down the ban on same-sex marriages, arguing that it was unconstitutional. In that case, a federal judge initially ruled in favor of the state and upheld the ban. Later, however, state officials announced their decision not to defend the ban on appeal, and it was struck down on October 7, 2014.

Two days after the ruling, marriage licenses became available to gay and lesbian couples in Nevada. State Senator Kelvin Atkinson and his longtime partner were the first couple to be married under the new law.

A major milestone for the gay marriage movement

The recent ruling marked the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage has been recognized in more than half the states, bringing the total to 26. With similar measures pending in several other states, it is expected that the number of states that recognize gay and lesbian marriages could soon reach 35.

Compared to many other states, Nevada's marriage licensing laws are relatively relaxed - there is no waiting period or residency requirement to obtain a marriage license in Nevada, making it a popular choice for out-of-state couples. With same-sex marriage still prohibited in much of the U.S., gay and lesbian couples are likely to travel from throughout the nation to say their vows in Nevada, just as straight couples have done for decades.