A federal judge has overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in Utah, epicenter of the Mormon faith, on grounds that the law violates the rights of due process and equal protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

The ruling by Judge Robert J. Shelby strikes down a law approved in a 2004 referendum by 66 percent of Utah voters, and which defined marriage as a union only possible between one man and one woman.

From the Salt Lake City County District Attorney's Office, public officials were informed that, in light of the ruling, from now on they would have to process the marriages of gays and lesbians.

Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill said that "unless there is a change, the current state of the law is that we cannot prohibit it."

In a communique, Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert, expressed his indignation that "an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah."

The Attorney General's Office said in a brief note that it was studying the judge's decision and will file an appeal.

Once the news was out, the first weddings began to take place in Salt Lake City, where Mayor Ralph Becker said he was ready to stay up through the night to marry all the same-sex couples he can.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, as the Mormon faith is officially known, expressed confidence that the courts will overturn Judge Shelby's ruling.

This Friday's verdict adds Utah to the list of 17 states of the union where same-sex couples are allowed to marry. EFE