United Church of Christ sues North Carolina in support of same-sex marriage
Usually when a religious organization weighs in on the issue of gay marriage, it is not so supportive of it. The United Church of Christ (UCC) is making a statement of its own by suing North Carolina over its same-sex marriage laws… by filing a lawsuit AGAINST the state’s ban on gay marriage.
On Monday, UCC filed a lawsuit stating that the amendment banning gay marriage in North Carolina’s constitution violates the church’s ability to marry same-sex couples, which by extension violates its First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. What makes this lawsuit different from all of the other lawsuits against gay marriage in the US is that it draws on the First Amendment, rather than making the case in terms of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The legal complaint (click the link if you’re into reading legal stuff) states:
“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] . . . .” This prohibition is extended to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.”
And then continues later in the document:
“Plaintiffs file this case not to compel other faiths to conform to their religious beliefs but to assert their right to freely perform religious services and ceremonies consistent with their beliefs and practices, and to extend the equal protection of the laws to all of God’s children”
UCC is a non-denominational Christian church that was founded in 1957. Throughout its history the church has been supportive of civil rights. It ordained its first openly gay minister in 1972, and began to support same-sex marriage in 2005. According to its official website, it currently has approximately 1.1 million members across the United States (although I expect that number to grow as people learn about UCC through the news surrounding this lawsuit).
Section 6 of North Carolina’s State Constitution states: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” This amendment was added to the constitution in 2012 by 61% of voters.
Other relatively progressive ideas were made recently by the head of the Catholic Church. The Pope made headlines by making statements against judging others for their lifestyle. While he did not go as far as to say he supports gay marriage (or even same-sex civil unions), he is making a shift away from the traditional anti-homosexual viewpoint of the Catholic Church.
Will this lawsuit’s new approach to challenging same-sex marriage bans be successful? We probably won’t know for a long time. However, state bans on gay marriage have been getting shot down left and right in the courts in recent years, so it’s just a matter of time before North Carolina’s does as well. In the meantime, UCC is definitely drawing attention to the issue, and making the case that it’s perfectly OK to be religious and support marriage equality.