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About The Case

The United Church of Christ and co-plaintiffs won this landmark lawsuit when U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn struck down North Carolina's marriage laws on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, ruling them unconstitutional. General Synod of the United Church of Christ et al vs. Cooper challenged the state's Amendment One for violating the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion. The federal court handed the UCC an historic victory, in the first instance of a national Christian denomination challenging a state's marriage statutes, after the United States Supreme Court refused to take up the issue of marriage equality.


The United Church of Christ (UCC), the lead plaintiff in this case, is a mainline Protestant denomination of more than 5,100 churches and nearly 1 million members from across the United States. The UCC was joined by the Alliance of Baptists, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, clergy from a variety of faith traditions (including Unitarian Universalist, Reform Judaism, Lutheran (ECLA)), and same-gender couples seeking to marry.


General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper argued that North Carolina marriage laws restrict the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment of both clergy and couples seeking to marry, as well as violate the equal protection under the law guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment of same-gender couples.


In 2012, North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which limited a domestic legal union to a covenant between a man and woman. 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. Licenses can now be issued for same gender couples. The judge’s order made clear that no action was to be taken against clergy solemnizing same gender marriages.


The United Church of Christ (UCC) has always had a fierce commitment for the equal rights of all, including its clergy. In 1972, the UCC became the first Protestant denomination to ordain an openly gay man, and in 2005, the Church formally affirmed "Equal Marriage Rights for All," becoming the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-gender marriage. The Church is also active on issues related to immigration reform, climate care, literacy, and racial justice.


5154 UCC congregations across the United States
998906 Formal members of the United Church of Christ
155 UCC churches in the state of North Carolina

Press Room

For media inquiries, please contact (216) 736-2173 or villac@ucc.org.

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News Articles

ABC11: http://abc11.com/society/group-rallies-in-effort-to-end-same-sex-marriage-ban/116553/
WCNC: http://www.wncn.com/story/25787896/activists-urge-ag-cooper-not-to-defend-amendment-one
WRAL: http://www.wral.com/clergy-demand-that-cooper-stop-defending-nc-marriage-laws/13737480/
Charlotte Observer: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/16/4982587/churches-petition-cooper-on-nc.html#.U6Bd95RdVyI
News & Observer: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/17/3942970/morning-memo-democratic-chairman.html
The Republic: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3425b4f4ebf94c3ca2ba5db354fa6d06/NC--Marriage-Petition
Federal Way Mirror: Religious freedom meets same-sex marriage
News & Observer: Chapel Hill, Carrboro mayors support gay marriage lawsuit
WHAS 11: Kentucky Faith Leaders call for LGBT marriage, fairness
The Washington Post: Same-sex marriage an issue in North Carolina elections? Maybe
Patheos: A different religious liberty angle on gay marriage
Think Progress: How A Single Low-Level Election Could Change Same Sex Marriage In The South
Patheos: The Unexpected Consequences of Laws and Lies
Times-News: UCC and the First Amendment
Charlotte Business Journal: Anthony Foxx: On marriage amendment, 'North Carolina got it wrong'
Religion & Politics: Marriage Equality and Religious Liberty: Another Chapter in the Story
Creative Loafing Charlotte: The Charlotte minister and rabbi involved in the lawsuit against Amendment One make their case
Times-News: Divided by culture, not religious beliefs
The Fayetteville Observer: Columnist: United Church of Christ brings fight for equality to North Carolina
HuffPost Gay Voices: North Carolina's New Gay Marriage Lawsuit Could Turn 'Everything On Its Head'
HuffPost Religion: North Carolina Vs. Freedom of Religion'
TIME: What North Carolina Gets Wrong About Same-Sex Marriages'
LA Times: North Carolina suit: When church, state and same-sex marriage collide
MSNBC: Faith-based argument for marriage equality
MSNBC: North Carolina faith leaders make unique case for gay marriage
Huffington Post: Religious Freedom Wars: Why the UCC's Lawsuit Against NC Gay Marriage Ban
The New York Times:  North Carolina's Gay-Marriage Ban Is Challenged by Church
ABC News: Lawsuit: Unusual Approach Against Gay Marriage Ban
TIME: United Church of Christ Sues North Carolina to Allow Gay Marriage
CNN: Group files suit to overturn same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina
Washington Post: United Church of Christ sues over North Carolina gay marriage ban
Huffington Post: Defending True Religious Liberty: Church Files Lawsuit in Support of Marriage Equality
Huffington Post: Church Sues State for Marriage Equality
NPR: United Church Of Christ Challenges North Carolina Ban On Gay Marriage
UC News: United Church of Christ files landmark lawsuit against North Carolina to protect First Amendment rights of clergy
UC News: UCC sues North Carolina to protect clergy, religious freedom of all faith expressions 
Charlotte Observer: United Church of Christ sues over NC ban on same-sex marriage
Charlotte Post: Church sues N.C. for gay marriage
Reuters: Clergy sue North Carolina over same-sex weddings, cite religious freedom
Slate: Religious Liberty Hypocrisy: North Carolina Forbids Churches From Performing Gay Weddings
Buzzfeed: United Church Of Christ Files Lawsuit Challenging N.C. Same-Sex Marriage Ban
The Wire: Religious Group Files a Beautifully Trolly Lawsuit Against North 
Washington Blade: United Church of Christ files lawsuit against N.C. marriage banCarolina's Gay Marriage Ban
Think Progress: United Church Of Christ Sues North Carolina For Right To Marry Same-Sex Couples
Gay Star News: United Church of Christ files suit against North Carolina's marriage ban
The New Civil Rights Movement: Christian Church Sues NC For Violating Its Religious Liberty By Banning Same-Sex Marriage
WSOC-TV: Lawsuit seeks to overturn NC same-sex marriage ban
CBS Charlotte: Lawsuit Seeks To Overturn NC Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Q Notes: New lawsuit says anti-gay marriage laws violate First Amendment religious freedom
Asheville Citizen-Times: Local clergy file federal same-sex marriage challenge
Plain Dealer: United Church of Christ sues North Carolina over same-sex marriage law restrictions on ministers
WCPN: Cleveland-Based United Church of Christ Sues North Carolina Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban
WKSU: UCC challenges North Carolina law criminalizing gay marriage services
Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland-based UCC fights for clerics' ability to perform same-sex marriages in North Carolina


Photos from the press conferences in North Carolina and Ohio on April 28, 2014

What people are saying

  • Rev. Dr. Nancy Ellett Allison

    "What an exciting time to be part of the United Church of Christ! Our denomination, Holy Covenant UCC and our other UCC congregations have stood with clergy and same sex couples throughout the state of North Carolina demanding marriage equality through our lawsuit challenging Amendment One.”

    Rev. Dr. Nancy Ellett Allison
    Senior Pastor, Holy Covenant United Church of Christ, Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Rev. Geoffrey A. Black

    “This is not only a victory for all the residents of North Carolina, but a profound affirmation of the religious freedoms upon which our country was founded.”

    Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
    General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

  • Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess

    “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."

    Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess
    National Officer, United Church of Christ

  • Rev. Geoffrey A. Black

    "We are thrilled that the judge's order specifically recognized the religious freedom implications of this case and our clergy will be able to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies as faith practices call for without fear of prosecution."

    Don C. Clark, Jr.
    United Church of Christ General Counsel

Contact us

For media inquiries, please contact (216) 736-2173 or villac@ucc.org.

(216) 736-2173