Church Sues North Carolina Over Gay Marriage Ban

Rev. Bernard Wilson spoke at a Monday news conference where he said North Carolina's laws against gay marriage "criminalize a minister who performs a religious ceremony, even if the ceremony is not intended to be a legal marriage under state law."(Photo: Flickr/United Church of Christ)
Rev. Bernard Wilson spoke at a Monday news conference where he said North Carolina's laws against gay marriage "criminalize a minister who performs a religious ceremony, even if the ceremony is not intended to be a legal marriage under state law."(Photo: Flickr/United Church of Christ)

A Northeast Ohio church is suing the state of North Carolina over its voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages.

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.

“That minister’s right to the free exercise of religion is violated,” says Reverend Bernard Wilson, chair of the church’s board. He spoke at a Monday press conference at church headquarters.

“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,” Rev. Wilson said.

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.

Comments