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.
Photos from the press conferences in North Carolina and Ohio on April 28, 2014
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FULL COMPLAINT: General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper
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