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UCC challenges North Carolina law criminalizing gay marriage services
The church says the law interferes with pastors' religious freedoms
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
The United Church of Christ promotes itself as a "church of extravagant welcome."
Courtesy of United Church of Christ
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The United Church of Christ, headquartered in Cleveland, is suing North Carolina over a law that makes it a crime for ministers to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. 

The 5,000-church denomination sued in federal court in Charlotte, saying the law violates a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion.

North Carolina law forbids gay couples from getting marriage licenses and makes it a misdemeanor if a minister officiates at a same-sex ceremony. The crime could be punished by as much as 120 days in jail, and allows anyone to sue a minister performing such a ceremony. 

The United Church of Christ says the ceremonies are viewed by its ministers as religious duties, not legal marriages in states that forbid it.

About a third of its churches have policies that welcome people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and the church has openly gay clergy.

LISTEN: United Church of Christ challenges North Carolina law on gay marriage

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