The United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit in federal court today, arguing that their religious freedom was being violated as a result of North Carolina’s Amendment 1, passed in 2012.
Amendment One is an amendment to the North Carolina constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. However, unlike other marriage-defining laws, it also penalizes clergy who perform marriage-like ceremonies for couples who don’t have a legal North Carolina marriage license, charging them with a Class-1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 120 days in jail, and/or community service and probation. The law also allows the minister to be sued in civil court. Under Amendment One, same-sex couples can’t be issued marriage licenses, so ministers who perform blessing ceremonies are liable to both civil and criminal prosecution.
It is for this reason that the UCC is suing, arguing that the law conflicts with their right to establish rules for their own ordained ministers as to what they will and will not do with regards to marriage. Specifically:
This limitation on free exercise of ministers, officers or others is in conflict with the UCC General Synod’s Equal Marriage Rights for All resolution adopted on July 4, 2005. This resolution affirms “equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage.”
For the full press release from the UCC, go here.