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US Judge Strikes Down Arizona Gay Marriage Ban

Kevin Patterson, left, and David Larance kiss after exchanging vows, as Rev. John Dorhaer, who performed the ceremony, stands at right, Oct. 17, 2014, in Phoenix, Arizona.

A U.S. federal judge has cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Arizona.

The judge ruled Friday that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, saying a recent appeals court decision striking down bans in Nevada and Idaho also applies to Arizona.

The state's attorney general must now choose whether to appeal the ruling or uphold it and allow gay couples to marry in Arizona. He is scheduled to speak Monday on the issue.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review lower court rulings striking down same sex marriage bans in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a video message Friday, saying the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages now taking place in the affected states.

He said he has directed lawyers at the Justice Department to work with other federal agencies "to ensure that all applicable federal benefits are extended to those couples as soon as possible."

Holder said the nation is "slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said U.S. President Barack Obama believes gay marriage should be the law of the land.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states - a major shift from just a decade ago. In 2003, no states married gay couples.

Massachusetts became the first to do so in 2004.