US federal judge strikes down Utah gay marriage ban
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A federal judge on Friday struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage, saying that the western state's law - approved by voters in a referendum in 2004 - violates the United States (US) constitution.
Judge Robert J Shelby of Utah's Federal District Court, said the state's law conflicts with the right of same-sex couples to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the constitution.
Gay groups welcomed the ruling, which comes after neighbouring New Mexico on Thursday became the 17th US state to legalise same-sex marriage.
"Few questions are as politically charged in the current climate," said Mr Shelby. "This... is especially true where, as here, the state electorate has taken democratic action to participate in a popular referendum on this issue.