A federal judge has declared Wyoming's ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

In his 16-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl said the “preferred forum” for addressing whether gay couples should be allowed to marry is the “arena of public debate and legislative action.”

“However, that ship has sailed,” he added. “It is not the desire or preference of this Court to, with the stroke of a pen, erase a State's legislative enactments. Nonetheless, the binding precedent of Kitchen and Bishop mandate this result, and this Court will adhere to its Constitutional duties and abide by the rule of law.”

Kitchen and Bishop are the cases in which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down bans in Utah and Oklahoma, respectively. Wyoming is in the same federal judicial district as Utah and Oklahoma.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Wyoming Equality are representing four gay couples in the lawsuit argued Thursday.

“Today’s ruling means that Wyoming will now join the majority of states that permit all families to enjoy the security, respect, and protection that marriage provides,” Christopher F. Stoll, senior staff attorney for NCLR, said in a statement. “Wyoming's same-sex couples and their children will live in a state that treats their families with the same respect as other families.”

Skavdahl temporarily stayed his ruling until 5 P.M. on Thursday, October 23 “or until all defendants have filed a notice that they will not appeal the preliminary injunction to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, whichever first occurs.”

On Thursday, Republican Governor Matt Mead said that he does not believe Wyoming should appeal the ruling.

UPDATE: Mead has said that “while this is not the result I and others would have hoped … we are bound by the law.” The state will not appeal.