- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Thomas Topovski first heard that the U.S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage on a talk radio show during his morning commute.

The 57-year-old Las Vegas contractor, who became one of the first Nevada couples to get a marriage license last year with his husband Jefferson Ruck, said the court ruling on Friday came as a shock.

“When I was born, people who thought as same-sex people were put away in the crazy bin,” he said. “I think this is incredible. I just want to jump up and down.”

The justice’s 5-4 ruling has little effect in Nevada because of a 2014 court injunction overruling the state’s constitutional provision banning same-sex marriage. But activists and same-sex couples are celebrating the court’s decision, calling it a historical milestone for gay rights.

Here’s how state activists and political figures responded to the verdict:

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NEVADA POLITICIANS

For most of his nearly two decades in the Nevada Legislature, state Sen. David Parks served as one of the few openly gay elected officials in the state. The longtime Democrat, who in 2009 successfully pushed for legislation creating same-sex domestic partnerships in Nevada, said the ruling helped validate decades of activism and growing support.

“I think it is probably the greatest news in the last 50 years,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Nevada Democrats such as Sen. Harry Reid and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus praised justices for “ruling on the right side of history.”

Republicans tenuously supported the court’s ruling. Sen. Dean Heller said that although he personally believes that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, he said he’ll respect the court’s ruling.

“I represent Nevadans of many beliefs, and it’s important to be respectful of differing viewpoints on this matter,” Heller said in a statement. “That is why I respect the decision handed down today by the United States Supreme Court.”

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement that the court’s ruling settled the issue in Nevada and the nation. Sandoval said the state needs to move forward.

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ACTIVISTS

Michael Dimengo, head of The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said he was cautiously optimistic before hearing the verdict on Friday morning.

Dimengo said that even though the court’s ruling doesn’t change much in Nevada, it allows married same-sex couples to travel to any state and have their marriages officially recognized. The decision continued a growing trend of tolerance to lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people, he said.

“We saw such sweeping changes in public opinion,” Dimengo said. “I would say 10 years ago, we in our community would not have predicted this.”

Organizers were planning rallies throughout the state on Friday. In Las Vegas, Parks and Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo will appear at a rally at the downtown gay and lesbian community center. Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve is leading a march and rally through downtown Reno.

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HISTORY

Like many other states, Nevada voters initially rejected the concept of same-sex marriage.

In 2002, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question defining marriage as only between a man and woman into the state’s constitution.

But lawmakers and activists have slowly chipped away at the issue, including the 2009 Legislature approving same-sex domestic partnerships over a veto by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons. In 2013, lawmakers approved the first step of a proposed constitutional change explicitly allowing for same-sex marriage.

Last year, Sandoval announced that the state wouldn’t defend itself in a court case challenging the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban, saying arguments against marriage equality were no longer defensible. A federal appeals court struck down the state’s constitutional amendment in October 2014, allowing same-sex couples to legally marry for the first time in the state.

Clark County has issued more than 2,600 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since October.

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