United Church of Christ sues NC over Amendment One

The United Church of Christ is suing the state of NC over Amendment One, saying it violates the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion. The suit was filed in Federal court in Charlotte; the church says it is the first by a national religious body to challenge a gay marriage ban on freedom of religion grounds.

“The State of North Carolina prevents couples of the same gender from obtaining a marriage license and makes it a crime for ministers to officiate at a marriage ceremony without determining whether the couple involved has a license,” the church said in a press release. “The UCC says the law limits ministers’ choices, violates the principle of ‘free exercise of religion’ upon which the church is built, and restricts the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment. The UCC seeks a preliminary injunction that would allow ministers to choose whether to perform a religious marriage.”

Update: Raw Story has another version of the story here, stating that "(a)ccording to the Campaign for Southern Equality, today’s suit is the first of 66 marriage equality suits filed nationally to evoke the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion." Raw Story has a link to a pdf of the complaint.


challenge not strong enough

While I am a supporter of gay marriage, and any other voluntary contract, I find this challenge to the law to be based entirely on the wrong argument. Amendment One is a religious law and challenging it on religious grounds will yield nothing but irrational squabbles over religious peculiarities and legitimate religious claims.

The proper grounds for a legal challenge is that of universal individual rights; specifically, right to contract and equal protection under the law.

The state, I would argue, may not interfere with an individual's right to enter into voluntary romantic contracts between free adults, and when they choose to do so, the state may not impose special categories for unequal treatment.

The solution is a complete separation of marriage and state. The only proper role of government is to protect individual rights and in its banning gay marriage it does the opposite: it violates the rights of individuals who use their judgment to determine what is in their self-interest. The government's role in marriage, as with any other contract, should be limited to enforcing contracts and settling disputes.

Furthermore, the protection of rights should not be subject to consensus or majority opinion. A majority or faction cannot vote to violate the rights of another. This subjective way of determining which rights are to be protected and which are to be violated is precisely what this nation was established to confound.

Attacking it from multiple sides

I believe the ACLU of NC is also challenging amendment 1 in the courts on a few grounds with some LGBT parents and incorporating some of the precedent from the DOMA decision, and then I think there is a Virginia case maybe that's reaching a federal district court that has jurisdiction over a clump of states in this area which could also essentially help challenge amendment 1.

I agree that attacking it from a religious angle alone probably isn't enough, but I think other groups are going at it from more sides than that. That said, I'm glad they are going it from that angle too. There are lots of arguments against amendment 1 and it'd be great for the court to hear them all IMO.

The big picture

Whether or not the new law-suit proves fruitful in bringing down the unconstitutional Amendment One is not the only benefit or advantage to this and other legal suits coming forward. it is the combination or piling-on of suit after suit from various constituents, organizations and faith based groups that are assisting in eroding the support base of Amendment One. Public sentiment is shifting and the continued publicity, media time and conversations spent on this issue every time a suit is filed is nothing but a plus for those who favor justice and liberty for all citizens. Even if the suit is struck down it has been successful in more ways than one.

Robert Kellogg

The irony

The really fascinating thing to me about the lawsuit is that UCC is historically derived from a group of Christians that represent the quest for religious freedom in the United States - the Pilgrims.

Seeing extremist evangelical groups like the NC Values Coalition defend the ban by calling UCC "errant" in their beliefs just bolsters the argument that Amendment One establishes religious doctrine in NC law and violates the US Constitution.

NC extremist evangelicals are calling a church that descends from the Pilgrims "un-Christian" and defending a ban on religious practices by the church is just too rich.

Extreme irony

We think it's a pretty good bet that the people who are in favor of government establishing religious doctrine in the form of Amendment One are, by and large, the same people who object to "government establishing religious doctrine" in the form of requiring Hobby Lobby to cover a standard set of healthcare items.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014