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Vegas awaiting wedding boom as way is cleared for same-sex marriage

Vegas awaiting wedding boom as way is cleared for same-sex marriage
Logan Seven raises an equality flag Tuesday at Chapelle de l'Amour wedding chapel in Las Vegas. (John Locher / Associated Press)

First it was on, then it was off and now it's on again. We're speaking, of course, about same-sex marriage in Nevada, which was cleared for takeoff on Tuesday, halted Wednesday morning and reinstated later that same day.

All of which has left officials in Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas and the Strip, scrambling in the short term. In the long term, same-sex marriage undoubtedly will be a boon to Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed "wedding capital of the world."

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It's unclear when the county can begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. But when it can, at least one venue has invited couples to marry for free.

On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down bans on gay matrimony in Nevada and Idaho. Preparations for issuance of licenses began in Clark County.

But Las Vegas' plans were put on hold early Wednesday when Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy granted a temporary stay of the appellate court's ruling after an emergency appeal from state officials in Idaho.

But because Nevada had not issued an objection, the Supreme Court revised its stay to include only Idaho.

After Tuesday's appellate ruling, the owner of a wedding chapel just a block from the county courthouse in downtown Las Vegas said he had calls from about 120 same-sex couples hoping to get married.

"We had phone calls until after midnight," said Jim McGinnis, owner of Chapelle de l'Amour told me. "We had people from not just Nevada but, surprisingly, from California.

"I think the thing of getting married in Vegas and being married the first day it was legal was a big push for everybody."

After the 9th Circuit's decision, McGinnis said his chapel would perform free ceremonies for same-sex couples during the first 24 hours after gay marriage became legal. On Wednesday, he said that offer stands.

"We won't ask them for a dime," he said.

With the relative ease of getting married in Las Vegas -- Nevada doesn't impose a waiting period as some other states do -- it's no surprise that, during 2013, Clark County issued 80,493 marriage licenses. The clerk's website says that's more than any other county in the nation.

That number is expected to climb when same-sex couples can legally marry in Las Vegas, providing an economic boon that will extend far beyond the chapels.

"We are a destination city" for weddings, McGinnis said. "When people come here, they don't come with lint in their pockets. They come to spend money."

Follow us on Twitter at @latimestravel

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