North Carolina's gay marriage ban is being challenged—by a group of clergymen. The United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Baptist, and Unitarian Universalist ministers, plus two rabbis, filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming that the ban infringes upon their religious freedom, and that because of the separation of church and state, they should be allowed to perform gay weddings. It's the first faith-based challenge to a gay marriage ban, the New York Times reports, and it's one of 66 new marriage equality suits planned across the nation, all of them focusing on the religious freedom argument, the Campaign for Southern Equality says.
"As senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation," says one plaintiff, according to the Raw Story. "My denomination—the United Church of Christ—authorizes me to perform these ceremonies. But Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right." The amendment makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a $200 fine, to perform religious weddings without a state-issued marriage license, Reuters explains. The 66 planned challenges are also arguing that gay marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection and due process. (Read more gay marriage stories.)