On what is being termed “Marriage Monday,” North Carolina church leaders and clergy delivered two petitions to the office of State Attorney General Roy Cooper that called on him to cease defending Amendment One and the State’s other discriminatory state marriage laws. The United Church of Christ and other faith groups argued that the State’s marriage laws restricted the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment.
In 2012, North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which limited a domestic legal union to a covenant between a man and woman. Under state laws consistent with Amendment One, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn’t obtained a license, and such a license may not be issued to same-gender couples. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and/or probation and community service.
“North Carolina is the only state the criminalizes clergy for performing religious marriage ceremonies without a state-issued license,” said Ms. Carol Williams-Swope, a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina. “I’m not an ordained minister nor am I a member of the LGBTQ community, but I stand with the nearly 30,000 individuals that signed these petitions to urge Attorney General Cooper to protect the religious freedoms and equal rights of all North Carolinians.”
In late April 2014, the United Church of Christ, along with a coalition of interfaith North Carolina clergypersons and same-gender couples seeking to marry, filed the lawsuit, General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, arguing that the State’s marriage laws restrict the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment. Case Plaintiffs now also include the Alliance of Baptists, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and a host of Episcopalian, Jewish, Baptist, Unitarian, and United Church of Christ clergy.
“North Carolina marriage laws clearly violate the principle of ‘free exercise of religion’ upon which the United Church of Christ – and this country – is built,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. “This isn’t just about delivering 30,000 signed petitions; we are standing up for the rights of all Americans that deserve their full Constitutional rights of religious freedom and equal protection under the law.”
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Source: The United Church of Christ