The United Church of Christ is joining the national debate on the future of gay marriage in a novel way: challenging North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage, saying Amendment One violates the church's constitutional guarantee to freedom of religion.
According to the church, this is likely the first challenge by a national Christian denomination of a state's gay marriage ban.
Amendment One, the church argues, makes it a crime for its clergy to officiate a marriage between two people of the same sex. That, the church argues, puts a limit on the church's exercise of religion.
"It is unfortunate that, even today, laws are designed to treat gay and lesbian people unequally," the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the church's general minister and president . "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."