United Church of Christ wins for marriage in NC

After a week that has seen the landscape of marriage equality shift dramatically, North Carolina also begins to provide marriage equality, but with a "religious liberty" twist. The victory against North Carolina's Amendment 1, which was only passed in 2012, was found unconstitutional, in part, on first amendment grounds.

The lawsuit was General Synod of the United Church of Christ et al vs. Cooper, which argued that under Amendment 1, clergy could be charged with a crime for officiating a marriage ceremony without determining whether the couple involved has a valid marriage license. For pro-LGBT religious leaders, like those in the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Reformed Jewish, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and so many others, this was a severe restriction on their ability to practice their faith.

U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn's opinion recognized the implications of religious freedom in the case. "It is clear ... that North Carolina laws ... threatening to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional," he wrote.

"We are thrilled by this clear victory for both religious freedom and marriage equality in the state of North Carolina,' said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC national officer, "In lifting North Carolina's ban on same-gender marriage, the court's directive makes it plain that the First Amendment arguments, made by the UCC and our fellow plaintiffs, were both persuasive and spot-on. Any law that threatens clergy who choose to solemnize a union of same-sex couples, and threatens them with civil or criminal penalties, is unconstitutional."