NC Marriage Laws Challenged
Special Report - December 16, 2011
Claiming it is unconstitutional for the State to require that marriages be solemnized by religious clergy and licensed by the State, a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s marriage laws was filed in Guilford County last week, and appears to be an attempt to open the door for same-sex couples to legally “marry.” Jeff Thigpen, Guilford County’s Register of Deeds, who is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in the county, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed December 8 in the Guilford County Superior Court, and names Attorney General Roy Cooper as the defendant. In addition to Mr. Thigpen, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three Greensboro ministers, two homosexual couples, one unmarried heterosexual couple, and one unmarried heterosexual man.
The lawsuit argues, in part, that homosexual couples have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Lawrence v. Texas, and Article 1, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution “to cohabit and engage in physical sexual acts in private.” It contends that “the state of North Carolina cannot interfere with that right in the absence of a compelling government interest. There is no compelling government interest for the state either to require or prohibit that their marriages be licensed and registered.” The lawsuit continues, “it is unconstitutional for the state to make the pastor, priest, or rabbi an agent the state for the purpose of carrying out the ceremony [of marriage] and participating in the submission of the state-granted license for the marriage, since this amounts to a state establishment of religion.” Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that it is unconstitutional for the State to “require individuals who are entering into marriage to participate in a ceremony prescribed by the state, and to participate in the licensing of the marriage, since this violates freedom of religion.” Finally, the lawsuit states that it is “unconstitutional for the state to make it unlawful for a pastor, priest, or rabbi to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples.”
The lawsuit calls for a “de-coupling and disentanglement of the state from the personal and religious institution of marriage,” and argues that marriage “should be solely in the dominion of citizens and their religious and secular organizations.” It does make an exception for the government to be involved in prohibiting certain types of marriages, such as those involving infants, bigamy, polygamy, or incest, and adds that the “state should be permitted to adjudicate rights” related to child support, custody, and property division in cases of divorce.
This is not the first time North Carolina’s marriage laws have been challenged in an attempt to legalize same-sex unions. In 2004, a homosexual couple filed a lawsuit in District Court against Durham County, after being denied a marriage license by the County Register of Deeds. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
“With North Carolinians prepare to go to the polls on May 8, 2012 to vote on a constitutional amendment to preserve the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the State Constitution, this lawsuit is a clear example of the need to protect the institution of marriage,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Not only does this lawsuit serve as a reminder of the vulnerability of our marriage laws, it also shows the great lengths to which homosexual activists and their allies will go to redefine the institution of marriage, which the government protects because of the myriad of benefits it brings to children, adults and society.”
For more information on why the Marriage Protection Amendment is necessary to protect the institution of marriage in North Carolina, visit our resource page.
Same-Sex Couples Seek Marriage Licenses - October 4, 2011
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