[Love & Sex Issue 2014]

For same-sex Nevada couples, destination weddings are the only option

Locals Dina Proto and Dina “Dom” Poist-Proto tied the knot in Laguna Beach, California, shortly after California began granting same-sex marriages.
Photo: Bill Hughes

We missed the damn wedding because somebody got us lost getting to the City Hall,” says Dina Proto, teasing her wife, Dina “Dom” Poist-Proto, with a half-smile on her face.

“How many years am I going to pay for that?” Poist-Proto laughs.

Last spring Nevada lawmakers began the process of repealing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but it’s still a long way down the aisle until gay couples can legally say “I do” in the Silver State. That’ll require approval by the 2015 Legislature and by voters at the ballot box in 2016—or the state’s ban being struck down when it goes before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (this week Nevada officials said they will not defend the ban).

But with 16 states already allowing same-sex marriages—and the federal government offering more and more benefits—some local couples are traveling to tie the knot.

“[It’s] not wanting to wait for politics to be where society already is,” says A.J. O’Reilly, a native Las Vegan who is planning an August wedding in Paso Robles, California, with his partner of four years, Rico Ramirez. “We aren’t settling for second best. We don’t have to worry about changing the name [of what is] happening to us just to make us feel better … It’s going to be a wedding.”

Proto and Poist-Proto took their wedding on the road in August 2008, tying the knot in Laguna Beach shortly after California began granting marriages to same-sex couples.

“On one hand, you’re happy for yourself, because you know that you’re legally married to each other someplace,” says Proto. But, she adds, she was disheartened that the union wasn’t recognized in Nevada, which didn’t begin offering domestic partnerships until 2009.

“It’s very unfortunate that as a couple … we end up having multiple anniversaries. It’s a challenge. Do you honor the one that’s close to your heart? The day you made a commitment to each other?”

Weddings are logistical puzzles—the invitations, securing a location, finding a florist. Coordinating all that hundreds of miles from home only adds to the chaos, and sometimes same-sex couples face unique hurdles.

Proto and Poist-Proto had trouble finding a minister and a bakery to take care of the cake. The couple ended up delivering their own wedding cake, driving it 250 miles along the I-15. They worried about how they would be received at the hotel hosting their party; even the City Hall venue presented a problem. The couple struggled to find one “receptive” to a same-sex wedding; one with “no protestors,” since the state had only recently begun marrying same-sex couples.

O’Reilly and Ramirez are just beginning to plan their wedding. “Where we’re getting married, we haven’t specifically been there yet,” laughs O’Reilly.

“We’ve relied a lot on A.J.’s mom,” adds Ramirez.

Any couple having a destination wedding deals with plane trips, hotels and guests who can’t attend because of financial barriers, but same-sex Nevada couples don’t have a choice. While O’Reilly and Ramirez are planning an intimate California wedding, they’re also throwing parties in Vegas and Colorado to celebrate with friends and family. Besides, “it’s not the wedding that’s important,” O’Reilly says. “It’s the marriage.”

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