UCC sues North Carolina over marriage freedom

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

A strong component of the organized opposition to marriage equality lies in a desire to impose religious conformity. Although expressed as “religious freedom”, it’s quite the opposite. Opponents are not content with having the state stay out of their religious sacraments and ceremonies; rather, they desire that the state step in and declare that only their religious marriages are respected and those of other positions or faiths be denied.

Now the United Church of Christ is fighting back. (Charlotte Post)

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, contending state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman restrict its ministers from performing their religious duties is unconstitutional.

North Carolina prohibits couples of the same gender from obtaining a marriage license and makes it a crime for ministers to officiate a marriage ceremony without determining whether a couple has a license. UCC attorneys say the law limits ministers’ choices, violates the principle of “free exercise of religion” and restricts the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment. The church seeks a preliminary injunction that would allow ministers the choice of performing a religious marriage.

Although UCC is taking the lead, other individual places of worship have added their name to the lawsuit. (Charlotte Observer)

The Charlotte-area clergy members who have joined them include Allison of Holy Covenant; Robin Tanner, pastor of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church; Rabbi Jonathan Freirich of Temple Beth El; Nancy Kraft, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran, and Nathan King, senior pastor at Trinity Reformed UCC in Concord.

They are joined by Asheville ministers Joe Hoffman of First Congregational UCC and Mark Ward of the city’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation; along with Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist in Raleigh.

I commend the denomination for this latest step in their long history of supporting the gay community. And I think that this may effectively illustrate for some that their insistence at imposing their own religious creeds into state law impose a burden not just on gay people but also on communities of faith.

Nathaniel

April 28th, 2014

Awesome! I have often wondered if this was possible. I imagine that this action is coming too late to actually be responsible for overturning the NC amendment, but it is certainly great for illustrating how religiously restrictive anti-gay laws really are.

On a different note, I am surprised you have not commented yet on the incident involving the Christian music group Jars of Clay.

Ben In Oakland

April 28th, 2014

About time the NALT Christians actually stopped talking at each other and took a positive political step for both gay people and religious freedom. I’ve been wondering when they would do this for the past 15 or 20 years

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

Nathaniel,

I haven’t had a lot of free time lately to post about much of anything, and trying to keep up with the comments on another thread has pretty much taken the time I have had.

This one didn’t take much research so up it went. The Jars of Clay story would require much more time.

I’ve wanted to post about it, about the Methodist church in Seattle the was kicked out of the Boy Scouts, about a number of developments in marriage cases, about NOM’s definition of “homosexual activist” and a lot more. I hope I can find a way to get back to more frequent posting.

Timothy Kincaid

April 28th, 2014

Ben,

The problem with the NALT Christians is that they are also the ‘not impose my faith on you’ Christians. That worldview tends not to engage as much in politics which, unfortunately, has left the playing field to the ‘you will do what my god demands’ crowd.

Nathaniel

April 28th, 2014

Timothy,
Me too. Now that you mention it, there have been quite a few things I have been hoping to hear BTB blogger opinions on. Hopefully you will find the time. I’ve noticed some of those comment-generating pieces. I found too many of the comments to be vitriolic, repetitive or otherwise unhelpful on my own reflections of the topic, so I haven’t tried to keep up with them. But, I can understand why this site’s bloggers would feel obligated to do so.

Ben,
there is also a lot of behind-the-scenes work that garners less attention than the loud mouths of the “impose my views” crowd. For example, a multi-denominational organization of Christian ministers and lay leaders played an important role in keeping NC from pushing an anti-gay amendment for many years, even as NC’s Southern neighbors jumped on the bandwagon. That is why it was 2012, and not 2004 or earlier when that action happened. And even then, it only happened because of Obamacare-created shifts in the political sands. Of course, not enacting an amendment hardly attracts headlines. Much NALT work has inherently been less in-your-face and less headline-grabbing.

JohnAGJ

April 28th, 2014

I preface this by noting I am not a lawyer or have any great sense of the nuances of the law by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, while I support any effort from religious groups like UCC to move civil SSM forward, I do not see how their suit can be valid. Religious groups that have doctrinal beliefs on marriage not respected by the law, such as polygamy, could just as easily make such a claim and I don’t believe the courts would uphold then. Take for instance FLDS or some Islamic group. If not recognizing SSM performed by UCC is a violation of their religious rights, even though the ceremonies are not prohibited by law, then why isn’t it the same for those polygamous unions sanctioned by these other groups? You KNOW the Right will be bringing this up…

Merv

April 28th, 2014

I wonder what prompted these NALTs to break their vow of silence.

Ben in Oakland

April 28th, 2014

John, that will be a tight squeeze for them, endorsing both polygamy and Mormonism.

But isn’t it always the way of it? They’re the ones claiming that if they allow gay marriage, then we must allow polygamy marriage, incest marriage, toaster marriage, child marriage, and horse marriage.

I don’t recall us bringing up the subject.

Ben M

April 28th, 2014

Technically, one can argue that the ceremonies are prohibited as well….

§ 51-6. Solemnization without license unlawful.
No minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons, signed by the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant. There must be at least two witnesses to the marriage ceremony.

revchicoucc

April 29th, 2014

@Merv. The United Church of Christ has not been silent on LGBT equality. In 2005, when MA was the only state to offer marriage equality, the national assembly of the UCC (known as the General Synod) voted the support marriage equality. In April 1969, two months before Stonewall, an agency of the UCC called for full civil rights protection for “homosexual persons.” In 1972, the UCC ordained an openly gay man as a minister and has continued to do so. We have had and do have national officers who are openly LGBT. Among Christian churches in the US, the United Church of Christ has been consistent and persistent in advocating for LGBT equality for over 40 years. I am a UCC minister, and I know we have not been silent. We have not necessarily been heard, but we have not been silent!

jpeckjr

April 29th, 2014

The Iowa Supreme Court made the point in its ruling establishing marriage equality that, on the religious aspect of marriage, limiting marriage to opposite gender couples might very well violate the “free exercise” rights of those religious bodies that supported same-gender marriage. The question was not before them, but they addressed it because it was an “unspoken” aspect of the case. I have a copy of that ruling somewhere. If I find it, I’ll quote a relevant passage. This case, though, seems to be the first one to put the “free exercise” question before any court. It’s worth asking.

Merv

April 29th, 2014

@revchicoucc – Where is the NALT equivalent of FRC, NOM, ADF, CWA, FoF, AFA, TBN, CBN, etc., etc.?

JEM

April 29th, 2014

Ben M hit it on the head, I believe. I am a member of a UCC church.

I think some large percentage of the articles written about or in support of the UCC suit have been confusing. The writers claim the UCC is suing because the ban prohibits our ministers from performing the kinds of same-sex marriages that are legal in 17 states.

As I understand it, the ban actually prohibits ministers from performing anything like a “blessing ceremony”, which might take the form of a wedding without the civil component.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

 

Latest Posts

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1954: Miami's Mayor Grows Impatient Over "Deviates"

Born On This Day, 1977: Del Marquis

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1956: The Adjustment of Male Overt Homosexuals

Federal Judge Blocks UNC From Enforcing North Carolina's "Bathroom Bill"

Georgia Pastor Who Praised Orlando Shooting Arrested for Child Molestation

Maine's Governor Is the Epitome Of What's Wrong In The Republican Party

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.