Federal judge strikes down Alabama ban on same-sex marriage
Gay couple holding hands, wearing a wedding ring (Shutterstock)

A federal judge struck down Alabama's ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional on Friday, clearing the way for the conservative southern state to become the 37th U.S. state where gay marriage is legal.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade found that the ban does not further Alabama's goal of protecting the ties between children and their biological parents, and that it is harmful to the children of same-sex parents.

"Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the state as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents," she wrote.

Granade did not place a stay on her ruling, meaning that if Alabama does not successfully petition to have the law put on hold, same-sex couples will be eligible to apply for marriage licenses when clerk's offices open.

Some clerks offices may choose to open over the weekend to accommodate applicants, said a spokesman of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)