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Another lawsuit being filed to strike down another marriage ban is nothing new. Every state without marriage equality has federal lawsuits against marriage bans except for four states. That number will likely decrease this week. What IS new about this lawsuit is that a religious organization (along with gay couples and other congregations) is filing this lawsuit -- the UCC will be a named plaintiff in the suit. And, there will be a First Amendment claim.

Reverend Joe Hoffman says:

As senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation. My denomination – the United Church of Christ – authorizes me to perform these ceremonies. But Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right.
Jake Sussman a partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and lead counsel in General Synod of the United Church of Christ vs. Cooper says:
In addition to bringing 14th Amendment claims under equal protection and due process, this lawsuit introduces a 1st Amendment claim that the marriage ban in North Carolina violates the right to the free exercise of religious beliefs by denominations, clergy, and congregants who believe that same-sex marriages are theologically valid and want to perform marriage ceremonies.
The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of North Carolina, and you can read more about it here and here.

I'm not certain if North Carolina's marriage ban (Amendment One) prohibits a church from performing a marriage ceremony. Most states' marriage bans simply state that the state will not recognize the marriages of same sex couples. I believe that is probably why religious organizations in favor of marriage equality have simply filed amicus curiae briefs in other marriage equality cases. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in North Carolina.

Just found this on the second link:

Current state law technically makes it a misdemeanor, Largess said, for ministers to conduct marriage ceremonies without licenses. It is also illegal for ministers — who are deputized by the state to perform weddings — to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

9:41 AM PT: UCC General Minister and President Geoffrey Black traveled to Charlotte for the lawsuit’s filing, which he said is a stand for the freedom of religion.

“We believe very strongly that this freedom must be protected,” Black said. “As an inclusive church we are sensitive to any laws that create inequality in our society. When we determined the State of North Carolina was restricting the free exercise of religion, we felt compelled to take lawsuit.”


4:55 PM PT: missleglebeagle makes a good point below that the UCC may not have Article III standing.

Originally posted to librarisingnsf on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 08:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossacks for Marriage Equality, LGBT Rights are Human Rights, Street Prophets , and Angry Gays.

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