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Gay marriage bans in Indiana and Utah were each ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday, in the two latest victories for the rapidly advancing marriage equality movement.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down Indiana’s ban on Wednesday afternoon, declaring that it violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue,” Young wrote. “In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions — laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love.”

Young did not apply a stay to the ruling, meaning that Indiana couples can begin getting married immediately.

Less than an hour later, a federal appeals court in Utah ruled 2-1 that the state’s ban is also unconstitutional.

“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws,” the decision from the three-judge panel reads. “A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”

The decision, which marks the first time that a federal appeals court has ruled that states must allow same-sex couples to marry, upholds a previous lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban. The panel put a hold on the ruling, meaning that Utah couples cannot yet marry, and setting the stage for a likely Supreme Court battle.

The twin rulings are the latest in a growing string of legal victories for marriage equality advocates. Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act one year ago, 16 federal judges across the country have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

Photo: Guillame Paumier via Flickr

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