John M. Becker

Clergy Challenge NC Marriage Ban on Religious Freedom Grounds

Filed By John M. Becker | April 30, 2014 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, North Carolina, religious freedom, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, United Church of Christ

north-carolina-marriage-religious-freedom.jpgThis week, a group of clergy members from various faith traditions, same-sex couples, and the United Church of Christ denomination filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging North Carolina's voter-approved constitutional marriage discrimination amendment.

The lawsuit takes a novel approach, turning Christian conservatives' "religious freedom" arguments on their head and claiming that by denying clergy members who wish to perform same-gender marriages, the state is violating their religious freedom.

The Associated Press reports:

The clergy members said that they'd like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but that they can't because of the "unjust law." Their attorney, Jake Sussman, says it's the only case to bring the First Amendment religious freedom claims among the more than 60 marriage equality cases pending in the nation's state and federal courts.

"North Carolina's marriage laws are a direct affront to freedom of religion," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister with the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "We feel that it is important that any person that comes into community life of a United Church of Christ congregation be afforded equal pastoral care and equal opportunity to religious services that clergy provide."

But in North Carolina, clergy are often faced with a troubling decision: "whether to provide those services or break the law," he said. "That's something no clergy member should be faced with."

Along with United Church of Christ, which has more than 1 million parishioners, a dozen clergy members and same sex-couples who want to marry were listed as plaintiffs. The defendants included North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and several county district attorneys as well as five registers of deeds.

This newest challenge to marriage discrimination in North Carolina comes in addition to another federal lawsuit filed earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union. I love the way it completely jams right-wing, anti-LGBT conservatives' framing of the marriage equality issue as one of LGBT rights vs. "religious freedom." Take that, bigots -- and way to go, UCC!

Image via the Campaign for Southern Equality.

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