The United Church of Christ (UCC) on
Friday cheered a federal judge's ruling striking down North
Carolina's ban on gay marriage.
Four days after the Supreme Court
refused to hear an appeal in a case from the Fourth Circuit striking
down Virginia's ban, U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr.
said that the case had created “settled law” in the circuit and
that North Carolina's ban violated the 14th Amendment of
the U.S. Constitution.
The Cleveland, Ohio-based UCC filed the
lawsuit in which Cogburn ruled. The church argued that the state's
ban violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is the
only case challenging state marriage bans to bring First Amendment
religious freedom claims.
“Of the three marriage equality cases
pending in North Carolina, it is the landmark case about religious
freedom and marriage equality that has finally struck down North
Carolina's unconstitutional marriage laws,” said UCC General
Counsel Donald C. Clark.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC
national officer, called the ruling a “clear victory for both
religious freedom and marriage equality.”
“In lifting North Carolina's ban on
same-gender marriage, the court's directive makes it plain that 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.”
In his 3-page opinion, Cogburn
recognized the case's implications on religious freedom. “It is
clear … that North Carolina's laws … threatening to penalize
those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional,” he
Gay couples began exchanging vows in
North Carolina moments after Cogburn released his ruling.
helps topple North Carolina's gay marriage ban.)