A federal judge announced on Friday that he will order the US state of Ohio to recognise out-of-state gay marriages.
Judge Timothy Black’s move strikes down part of the state's ban on gay marriages, but does not go as far as forcing it to perform same-sex weddings. He will issue the ruling 14 April.
He did not say why he made the announcement on his ruling before issuing it. But by stating his intention ahead of his ruling, the judge gave the state time to prepare an appeal that can be filed immediately.
Gay marriage is now legal in 17 states in total and in Washington, DC.
Federal judges have struck down bans and ordered Kentucky and Tennessee to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, though stays have been issued pending appeals.
Judge Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban.
He said he based his decision on the fact that not recognising out-of-state same-sex marriages denied their “fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married.”
Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, argued that Black should strike down the entire marriage ban. “That human dignity is denied by the way Ohio treats same-sex couples. This is central to our whole commitment as a nation to equality.”
Ohio will appeal Black's order when it comes out, according to Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio's attorney general, but did not comment further.
The state's attorneys argue that Ohio should be able to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and that the statewide gay marriage ban does not violate any fundamental rights, adding that attorneys improperly expanded their originally narrow lawsuit.
In December, Black issued a much narrower ruling that forced Ohio to recognize gay marriage on death certificates. He indicated at that time that the marriage ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
The state appealed that ruling, and the case is pending in the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Additional reporting by AP