County Clerk offices nationwide turned away gay and lesbian couples looking to get married Thursday during the 12th annual Freedom To Marry protest.

Organizers hope to draw attention to the fact that gay couples cannot marry in 48 states. Thirty states have adopted constitutional amendments that restrict marriage to a heterosexual union. Other states have enacted laws that ban gay couples from marrying.

In historic Charlottesville, Virginia, where voters banned gay marriage by constitutional amendment in 2006, six gay couples seeking a marriage license were turned away, reports the Waynesboro News Virginian.

Several couples handed county clerks who denied their requests chocolates packaged in a big heart-shaped box.

“I pay taxes. I'm a citizen of Virginia. I'm a citizen of the United States,” Nancy Nolte-Shotwell, who wants to marry her girlfriend, Emily, of nine years, told the paper. “I deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

Five couples were turned away at the Salt Lake County Clerk's office, The Associated Press reports. Voters in Utah approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004. The measure also denies lawmakers the option of enacting domestic partnerships.

The Legislature is currently mulling a bill that would grant domestic partnerships to gay and lesbian couples. To make that happen, lawmakers would need to alter a portion of the constitution, a move most Utahans disagree with. But the state's popular governor, Republican Jon Hunsman, says he backs the bill.

Drew Cloud and his partner, Jacob Whipple, were among the gay couples. “The fact that the state won't give us a piece of paper doesn't mean we came home empty-handed,” Cloud said. “We still have each other.”

This year's 12th annual event might have been the most visible sign yet that gays and lesbians consider the right to marry a denied civil right. It comes after the gay community lost three bruising gay marriage fights in California, Arizona and Florida on November 4. In Arizona, voters had rejected a similar measure in 2004. California gay couples won the right to marry in May, 2008 when the state Supreme Court struck down a law limiting marriage to heterosexual partners. But Proposition 8 defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman in a constitutional amendment.

A more confrontational protest took place in Dallas, Texas, reports the Dallas Voice. After a wedding ceremony presided by the Rev. Daniel Kanter, senior minister at First Unitarian Church of Dallas, where lesbian couple Kim Davis and Rose Preizler exchanged vows, about 20 protesters accompanied the couple inside the clerk's office to request a marriage license. The paper reports that the event lasted about an hour and became heated when the couple was denied a license by Clerk John Warren, but ended peacefully.

The couple has been together about two years and legally married last summer in Canada. That marriage, however, is not recognized by the state of Texas.

Troy Smith, a coordinator at a Las Vegas wedding chapel, and his partner of six years, Justin Gibson were among the fifteen couples turned down at Las Vegas' downtown marriage bureau.

“I sell it every day, but I can't buy it myself,” Smith told The Associated Press. “It just about breaks my heart. It's not fair.”