Protestant-based group files lawsuit against Amendment One - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Protestant-based group files lawsuit against Amendment One

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A Protestant-based group of clergy filed a lawsuit on Monday saying an amendment to the Constitution of North Carolina defining marriage as being between a man and woman keeps them from performing their religious duties.

The governing body of the United Church of Christ (UCC) filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in uptown Charlotte. The lawsuit argues that Amendment One is unconstitutional because UCC ministers are unable to do their job.

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. 

Amendment One was a ballot initiative approved in May 2012 that makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. The amendment does not prohibit domestic partnerships.

Church officials said the UCC is seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow ministers to choose whether to perform a religious marriage.

WEB EXTRA: Read the full lawsuit filed by the UCC

"The United Church of Christ is proud to defend the religious freedoms upon which this nation was founded," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the UCC.

"It is unfortunate that even today, laws are designed to treat gay and lesbian people unequally. In its efforts to restrict gay marriage, the State of North Carolina has restricted one of the essential freedoms of our ministers and of all Americans." 

Church officials say it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn't obtained a license, and such a license may not be issued to same-gender couples.

A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and/or probation and community service. 

"This limitation on free exercise of ministers, officers or others is in conflict with the UCC General Synod's Equal Marriage Rights for All resolution adopted on July 4, 2005," church officials said.

"This resolution affirms 'equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage'."

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