(CN) - An Indiana law banning gay marriage and refusing to recognize those performed in other states is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
"The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue," U.S. District Chief Judge Richard 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."
He sided with several gay and lesbian couples, a widow and some children of same-sex parents who had challenged the ban in three separate lawsuits.
In his 36-page ruling, Young agreed with the plaintiffs that the state's 1997 marriage code violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
"Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana," he wrote. "These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such."
Though he acknowledged that marriage and domestic affairs typically fall within the realm of the state, Young said any restrictions imposed by a state "must comply with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection of the laws and due process."
"[T]here is no rational basis to exclude same-sex couples" from marriage, he wrote. "The purpose of marriage -- to keep the couple together for the sake of their children - is served by marriage regardless of the sexes of the spouses."
He ordered Indiana officials to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage - not a same-sex marriage," Young added.
His ruling comes on the same day that the 10th Circuit upheld
a lower court's decision to strike down a similar gay marriage ban in Utah. The federal appeals court stayed its decision pending the state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Young's ruling drew praise from the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits.
"Thanks to the decision of Judge Young, Hoosier children no longer have to wait -- with their mothers and fathers -- for their families to be accorded the rights and dignity that only come with marriage," Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.
The state attorney general's office said it would appeal today's ruling.