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North Carolina clergy members challenge same-sex marriage ban

[JURIST] The United Church of Christ (UCC) [church website] on Monday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; materials] challenging North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban on the grounds that it restricts freedom of religion. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on behalf of UCC reverends and same-sex couples. The UCC believes that North Carolina marriage laws "limit ministers' choices, violate the principle of 'free exercise of religion' upon which the church is built, and restrict the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment." The North Carolina law in question is "Amendment One" [text, PDF], which limits a domestic union to only a man and a women. The amendment also states that it is a class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple without a license, which cannot be obtained by same sex couples. The UCC is a progressive sect of the Protestant denomination that has continually worked for gay rights. In 1972 the UCC became the first Church to ordain a gay minister, and it has become the first Protestant church to accept same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most hotly debated topics in the legal community today. Earlier this month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriages. Also in April Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring [official website] filed an appellate brief [JURIST report] in support of a district court's ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. A federal judge granted an emergency request [JURIST report] earlier this month to force Indiana to recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage on a death certificate.

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