In April the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, arguing that North Carolina’s marriage laws limit ministers’ choices and restrict the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment—and are therefore unconstitutional.
Under state laws consistent with Amendment One, 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. In addition, the laws allow anyone to sue the minister who performs a marriage ceremony without a license and collect up to $200 if they prevail. The UCC believes that this prohibition and penalties also apply to a minister performing a religious ceremony not intended to result in a legal marriage.
The United Church of Christ maintains its commitment to being a united and uniting church. We recognize that our local churches and clergy deserve the full First Amendment Rights of “free exercise of religion.” This lawsuit is being filed to protect our right to religious liberty, regardless of where one is on their own faith journey as it relates to marriage equality and the rights of LGBT persons.
These laws prohibit not only the religious marriages of same-gender loving couples, but also the civil unions of any two people who choose not to legally marry for any number of reasons.
While the United Church of Christ is the only denominational plaintiff, General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper also includes a number of clergy and couples from other faith traditions. Also named in the suit as plaintiffs are three UCC clergy and three couples who are members of their respective UCC local churches.
On behalf of the UCC, the national setting of our church has invited Open and Affirming congregations—which includes us here at Storrs Congregational Church UCC—to support this case by making a financial donation.
For more information, check out this letter of explanation from the Rev. Geoffrey Black, our UCC General Minister and President, and also a FAQ sheet.
Contributions can be sent to us here at Storrs Congregational Church UCC, clearly marked “UCC offering – NC Litigation”. You can also make contributions on line at http://www.ucc.org/ido/.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Pastor Matt, or our Connecticut Conference Minister, the Rev. Kent Siladi, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are invited to keep the denomination in your prayers as we take this bold stand for the protection of everyone’s religious freedom.