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A New Lawsuit (And Argument) Against NC's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The United Church of Christ filed a federal lawsuit in Charlotte on Monday arguing that same-sex couples should be able to marry in North Carolina. Of course, there are many challenges to same-sex marriage bans playing out across the country. WFAE's Michael Tomsic joined Mark Rumsey to discuss where some of the lawsuits in North Carolina stand.

Let's start with today's challenge. What makes it different?

The United Church of Christ is making a religious argument for same-sex marriage. Whereas a lot of these kinds of lawsuits are based on the 14th Amendment – equal protection under the law – the church is making a First Amendment argument focused on freedom of religion.

Don Clark is a lawyer for the United Church of Christ, which is a protestant church with about one million members across the country.

"We believe that all faiths should be free to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of penalty or interference by the state," he said.

Clark says since his church believes same-sex marriage is theologically valid, North Carolina shouldn't be able to say it's not – basically, the state shouldn't pick a religious side.

And this is just the most recent lawsuit against North Carolina's Amendment One, which voters passed in 2012. What are the other lawsuits?

There are two federal ones that the ACLU is involved in. The group filed the first in Greensboro pretty quickly after Amendment One passed. That one was initially about adoption policies, but the ACLU amended it last summer to directly challenge Amendment One. And the reason for that change was the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That decision included strong language about how a law can make some marriages "less worthy" than others, and a lot of groups across the country have filed or updated their cases using some of that language.

And the second ACLU lawsuit in North Carolina?

It was filed earlier this month in Greensboro, and the idea behind that one is to speed this process up. It's filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who have pressing medical needs that make marriage recognition a big deal in terms of health care costs, emergency medical decisions and child custody.  

Has that case been successful in speeding up the process?

We'll find out in the next week or so. That's when a judge will decide whether to put the case on hold. And the reason to put it on hold is that the federal appeals court for our region is about to hear arguments for a similar lawsuit in Virginia. What that appeals court decides could settle this question for the Carolinas, too.

When will that happen?

The arguments are in about two weeks, but the decision could be months away.