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Wyoming won't appeal federal judge order to allow same-sex marriage

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Wyoming is becoming the latest state to reluctantly allow same-sex marriages after a federal judge's ruling striking down a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Advocates for gay marriage were rejoicing at the news Friday.

"There's a lot couples impacted by this that are ready to get out there and get this done just as quick as possible," Jeran Artery, executive director of Wyoming Equality, said. "And that's a great day for Wyoming."

But unlike some other states, same-sex couples in Wyoming couldn't have their marriages performed right away Friday because of how U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl handed down his ruling.

While Skavdahl ruled that the state must comply with a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that permits same-sex marriage, he issued a stay until next Thursday in order to allow time for the state to appeal. Skavdahl said his ruling will take effect immediately if the state decides before Thursday not to appeal.

Gov. Matt Mead's office released a statement late Friday afternoon saying that the ruling is contrary to the governor's personal beliefs but that the state would not appeal because any appeal would likely fail.

However, the state had not yet filed the paperwork notifying Skavdahl of its decision.

That means gay marriages will have to wait until Monday until the paperwork is formally filed.

PHOTO: Donna West, left, and Paula McDaniel stand on their porch after putting out their rainbow flag upon hearing the news that a state law banning same-sex marriage was struck down by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, in Casper, Wyo. West and McDaniel have been together almost 19 years. They married in San Diego last year, but their marriage wasn't recognized by the state of Wyoming.  (AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Dan Cepeda) MANDATORY CREDIT
Donna West, left, and Paula McDaniel stand on their porch after putting out their rainbow flag upon hearing the news that a state law banning same-sex marriage was struck down by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, in Casper, Wyo. West and McDaniel have been together almost 19 years. They married in San Diego last year, but their marriage wasn't recognized by the state of Wyoming. (AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Dan Cepeda) MANDATORY CREDIT

"It's a bit of legal maneuvering but make no mistake the freedom to marry is here in Wyoming," Artery declared. "I feel like today we are one step closer to truly becoming the Equality State."

Wyoming, which includes Equality State as one of its state mottos, is among the most conservative states politically and its law defines marriage as between a man and woman.

But the number of states fighting gay marriage is dwindling thanks to a slew of court rulings in recent weeks.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review several federal court rulings that upheld gay marriage as a constitutional right. The rulings include the one from the 10th Circuit, which covers Wyoming and five other states.

"I didn't know when I would see this day arrive, and obviously the events set in motion with the U.S. Supreme Court this came much quicker to Wyoming than any of us had thought it actually might," Artery said.

Wyoming county clerks have been unwilling to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the legal issues have been resolved.

The couples include Brie Barth and Shelly Montgomery of Carpenter, who applied for a marriage license the day after the Supreme Court decision not to take up gay marriage upheld gay marriage in the 10th Circuit and elsewhere.

Barth and Montgomery are among the couples who filed the federal lawsuit.


Associated Press writer Ben Neary in Cheyenne contributed to this report.

All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.

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