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May 6, 2014
On Monday, April 28, the United Church of Christ (UCC) filed a lawsuit in North Carolina arguing that North Carolina’s marriage laws limit ministers’ choices and restrict the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment, thereby making these laws unconstitutional.
While the UCC is the only denominational plaintiff, the suit also includes a number of clergy and couples from other faith traditions (two of these just so happen to be friends of the BPFNA, Nancy Ellet Allison and Nancy Petty - pastor at BPFNA Partner Congregation Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.)
Under North Carolina state laws, 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. In addition, the laws allow anyone to sue the minister who performs the ceremony and collect up to $200 if they prevail.
In a recent letter, Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree, the interim conference minister for the Florida Conference of the UCC, expresses that, "The United Church of Christ maintains its commitment to being a united and uniting church. We recognize that our local churches and clergy deserve the full First Amendment Rights of 'free exercise of religion.' This lawsuit is being filed to protect our right to religious liberty, regardless of where one is on their own faith journey as it relates to marriage equality and the rights of LGBT persons. These laws prohibit not only the religious marriages of same-gender loving couples, but also the civil or religious unions of any two people who choose not to legally marry for any number of reasons."
For more information about this issue, please visit the UCC website by clicking here.