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Cleveland-Based United Church of Christ Sues North Carolina Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Monday, April 28, 2014 at 4:56 PM

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The Rev. Bernard Wilson says North Carolina's gay marriage ban threatens religious freedom. Photo by Joanna Richards

A mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Cleveland has filed suit in North Carolina over that state’s gay marriage ban. Ideastream’s Joanna Richards 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.

“That minister’s right to the free exercise of religion is violated,” said the Rev. Bernard Wilson, chair of the church’s board. He spoke at a news conference today 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,” he 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.

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