North Carolina Clergy Bring Religious Freedom Lawsuit against State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

I don’t mean to claim I had any effect, but I am interested to see that the argument I made in my column “The Case for Gay Marriage is Made in the Freedom of Religion” is being pursued in North Carolina. My thanks to John Davidson for pointing me to the news report by Lorelei Laird linked above. Here are key passages:

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday in the Western District of North Carolina puts a new spin on same-sex marriage litigation: religious freedom. In it, several individual clergy members and the General Synod of the United Church of Christ argue that state laws banning same-sex marriage unconstitutionally penalize them for practicing their faith. …

North Carolina has both a constitutional amendment and a statute making same-sex marriages invalid. Furthermore, North Carolina General Statute §51-6 makes it a crime for members of the clergy to perform marriages for couples who do not have a license.

As a result, the complaint says, state law forbids the plaintiffs from practicing their religions, in violation of the free exercise and free association clauses of the First Amendment. The plaintiffs also make the due process and equal protection arguments more common in same-sex marriage lawsuits after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor.