A U.S. federal judge has struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.
The decision marks a major shift in the conservative western state where the Mormon church wields considerable influence.
Judge Robert Shelby issued a 53-page statement Friday saying the state's ban on gay marriage violated the rights of gay and lesbian couples to equal protection under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Utah's attorney general's office says it is seeking an emergency stay of the judge's order while the office appeals to a higher court.
If the ruling stands, Utah would become the 18th U.S. state to allow gay marriage.
The judge's ruling touched off a flurry of issuances of marriage licenses and impromptu weddings, especially in Salt Lake City where a state senator married his longtime partner.
The ruling was based on a lawsuit filed by three gay and lesbian couples who wanted to marry in Utah, but were not able to do so.