Salt Lake City's gay pride parade marshals, the three couples who brought the lawsuit against Utah that led to the overturning of the state’s gay marriage ban, wave from their float during the annual gay pride parade Sunday, June 8, 2014. Kate Calland holds a photo of Karen Archer, left; Kody Partridge and Laurie Wood, center, and gay couple Moudi Sbiety and Derek Kitchen, rear. 

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A federal appeals court for the first time says a state cannot prevent gay people from getting married.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver found that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. The judges upheld a lower court ruling that struck down the ban in December.

They immediately put their ruling on holding so it could be appealed.

The case has been closely watched because it represents the first ruling on gay marriage at the appellate level since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.

The ruling likely will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The panel has not yet ruled on a similar ban in Oklahoma.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press