The right to marry is a something that has been fought for by many different people for the longest time. Amongst them there have been, and still are, a large number of citizens who fight for gay people’s rights to come together in holy matrimony. However, as of last Monday, the fight for gay marriage has been taken to a whole new level by the United Church of Christ that filed a lawsuit against North Carolina to lift their gay marriage ban.
The ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina was voted into law in 2012. Under the current law, any minister who is caught performing a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples, or any couple without a valid marriage license, will arrested, charged with a Class A misdemeanor and thrown in jail for up to 45 days. The lawsuit may not be the first one to be filed against gay marriage, but it is the first one to be filed by a religious denomination that is citing violation of first amendment rights, and that has been fighting for the rights of gays to get married since 2005. The denomination boasts an impressive 1 million followers who can be found all over the country.
The United Church of Christ claims that the North Carolina their ban on gay and lesbian couple’s right to get married is to fight the ban’s unconstitutional in the fact that it violates the rights given by the first amendment. As it stands, North Carolina churches are allowed to give blessings to gays and lesbians who already had a legal wedding in a different state where it is not illegal for them to do so. However, they are not allowed to legitimately have a wedding in the state. Hence their first amendment violation argument and hence the lawsuit brought against the state of North Carolina.
The UCC has gained a lot of support in its attempt to get the ban lifted from the state. The Church is being openly helped and encouraged by a priest, a rabbi, a Baptist pastor, two Unitarian Universalist ministers, and a large number of gay and lesbian couples. They are all in an agreement that, “The state’s marriage law represents an unlawful government intervention into the internal structure and practices of the plaintiffs’ religions.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also has a unique suit filed against the North Carolina marriage ban. The ACLU seeks to have the ban abolished for the sake of the children who were adopted same-sex couples. One lesbian couple has an adopted son with cerebral palsy and they cannot get the medical care he needs. Even though some same-sex couples were married in other states, the ban in North Carolina makes it difficult for them to receive legal recognition of their union. The ACLU and the same-sex couples who support them argued to a judge that the ban needs to be suspended quickly because of those who are sick. The longer the state ban is in place, the more irreparable damage is being done to those who are suffering. Last year the United States Supreme court ruled that federal government must recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
Currently 17 states are allowing gay marriage. Bans like the one in North Carolina have been struck down in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Michigan. The lawsuit filed on gay marriage by the UCC is against North Carolina is only one thing that can be done to help spread equality. More measures can and will be taken by individuals who really want to spread equality.
By Mike White