(UPDATE) 2:30 p.m.-SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Salt Lake County clerk's office begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A federal judge has struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban, saying it is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling Friday saying Utah's law passed by voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
Shelby says the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way, and the state's unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify deny allowing same-sex marriages.
Attorneys for the state argued that Utah's law promotes the state's interest in "responsible procreation" and the "optimal mode of child-rearing."
The lawsuit was brought by three gay and lesbian couples in Utah.
Many similar court challenges are pending in other states, but Utah's has been closely watched because of the state's history of staunch opposition to gay marriage as the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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