Ohio Denomination Sues North Carolina Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Apr 29, 2014

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The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ has filed a lawsuit in North Carolina over that state's same-sex marriage ban.

Joanna Richards of member station WCPN in Cleveland reports.

A constitutional amendment passed by North Carolina voters in 2012 banned the state from recognizing same-sex unions. It also made it a crime for ministers to perform ceremonies for couples not granted a state marriage license. That’s the point that is angering the United Church of Christ.

Wilson (0:05): That minister’s right to the free exercise of religion is violated.

That’s the Reverend Bernard Wilson, chair of the church’s board. He spoke at a news conference today at church headquarters.

Wilson (0:11): These statutes criminalize a minister who performs a religious ceremony, even if the ceremony is not intended to be a legal marriage under state law.

The amendment makes performing such a ceremony punishable by up to 120 days in jail, a fine, community service and probation.

The United Church of Christ allows its ministers to decide on their own whether to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The denomination is known for being liberal on social issues. It was the first majority-white church to ordain an African-American, and the first mainline church to ordain women as well as gays.