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United Church of Christ Becomes First Denomination to Join Gay Games as Major Sponsor: VIDEO

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This year, the United Church of Christ is set to become the first religious denomination to serve as a major sponsor of the Gay Games, The New York Times reports:

UccThe denomination, the United Church of Christ, has its headquarters in Cleveland, which, along with Akron, is one of two cities that will play host to the more than 35 sporting and cultural events scheduled to be part of Gay Games 9. Geography, however, is only one reason the church agreed to become a major sponsor; ideology loomed larger.

Indeed, the UCC has a long history of promoting LGBT-inclusivity, becoming one of the first mainline Christian churches to support marriage equality back in 2005. More recently in April, the UCC filed a suit in North Carolina challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying that the law’s penalties against clergy who conduct ceremonies for same-sex marriages violates their free exercise of religion.

Check out a UCC video of the sponsorship announcement, AFTER THE JUMP...

Gay Games 9 will take place Augus 9-16. More info here

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Thursday Speed Read: NOM, Oregon, UCC, DeMaio, Kuehl, Utah, Aiken

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

KennedySUPREME COURT SAYS NO TO NOM:

The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday denied a request to stop same-sex couples in Oregon from marrying. The request came from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and was directed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles motions from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The one-sentence order Wednesday noted that Kennedy referred the matter to the full court. NOM had sought a stay of a May 19 federal district court ruling declaring Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. NOM had also asked the federal district court for the right to serve as intervenor in a case to defend the state ban after the governor and attorney general made clear they would not. NOM said Wednesday it would continue pressing its appeal for intervenor status to the Ninth Circuit.

UccUCC LAWSUIT GAINS ALLIES:

Three more religious groups joined the United Church of Christ’s lawsuit in North Carolina this week. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (2,000 rabbis), the Alliance of Baptists (130 congregations), and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (90 congregations) signed on as plaintiffs in UCC v. Cooper, arguing that the state ban on same-sex couples marrying violates the free exercise of religion for clergy who conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples. On May 27, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper asked the U.S. District Court for Western North Carolina to delay hearing the case until after the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rules on a case against a similar ban in Virginia.

DemaioDEMAIO ADVANCES IN HIS PRIMARY:

Openly gay Republican Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio advanced in his primary Tuesday in San Diego. DeMaio came in second behind incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, but in California’s primaries, the top two vote getters proceed to the November ballot. DeMaio received 36 percent of the vote, compared to Peters’ 42 percent, but he handily beat out two other Republicans who garnered a combined 22 percent.

KUEHL IN RUNOFF WITH SHRIVER:

KuehlOpenly gay California Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s primary for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She will face second place Bobby Shriver on the November ballot. Kuehl earned 36 percent of the votes in the eight-candidate race, followed by Shriver with 29 percent, and openly gay former West Hollywood Councilman John Duran with 16 percent. No one’s called the race for state controller yet, but it appears openly gay former California Assembly Speaker John Perez may have secured a spot on the November ballot. Perez appears to have come in second behind Republican Ashley Swearengin.

UtahUTAH APPEALS RECOGNITION ORDER:

As expected, the attorney general of Utah filed notice Wednesday that the state will appeal a May 19 federal district court judge’s preliminary injunction requiring that Utah recognize the marriages of an estimated 1,300 same-sex couples that took place before a U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in another district court judge’s decision striking down the state’s ban. Judge Dale Kimball (a Clinton appointee) delayed his order 21 days to give the state time to appeal his injunction in Evans v. Utah to the Tenth Circuit. A Tenth Circuit panel has already heard arguments in Kitchen v. Herbert, which challenges the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying.

AikenCLAY AIKEN BLAMES PRESIDENT:

Openly gay Congressional candidate Clay Aiken of North Carolina said in a recent interview with CNN that the buck stops with President Obama on the Veterans Administration’s failure to provide medical care to veterans in a timely fashion.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


North Carolina Clergy Files First-of-its-Kind Lawsuit Challenging State's Gay Marriage Ban

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BY LISA KEEN

In a first of its kind lawsuit, a group of ministers filed a complaint in federal court Monday against North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, saying that the law’s penalties against clergy who conduct ceremonies for same-sex marriages violates their free exercise of religion.

UccThe lawsuit, United Church of Christ v. Cooper, was organized by the United Church of Christ and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in Charlotte. The UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination with an estimated one million members across the country.

The lawsuit challenges all North Carolina laws that define marriage as exclusively for opposite-sex couples, as well as the state’s “Marriage Laws” that “preclude—through the imposition of criminal penalties and otherwise— religious ministers, clergy, or anyone else from performing a ceremony of marriage for same-sex couples, thereby preventing couples in those congregations from freely participating in such religious ceremonies.”

The plaintiffs include UCC, clergy plaintiffs, and same-sex couple plaintiffs.

“Under North Carolina law, the Clergy Plaintiffs are prohibited under threat of criminal prosecution from performing any such religious ceremonies, and the Couple Plaintiffs are prohibited from becoming married in the tradition of their respective faiths. Such laws,” stated the lawsuit, “violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.”

R_cooperThe lawsuit also claims the ban violates the First Amendment right to expressive association of all plaintiffs and, for couple plaintiffs, the constitutional rights to equal protection of the law and due process. It asks the district court to issue both a preliminary and permanent injunction against North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (right) and other state defendants to stop enforcement of the law.

Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, notes that North Carolina’s ban goes farther than most state bans by “actually criminalizing” a religious ceremony for a same-sex couple.

“In their zeal to withhold marriage from gay couples in North Carolina,” said Wolfson, “officials not only pushed a discriminatory constitutional amendment, but further piled on -- actually criminalizing clergy marrying couples within their own religious beliefs. The intent was to chill houses of worship from celebrating love in their own faith, and crossed the line in violating religious freedom on top of violating the constitutional guarantee of the freedom to marry.”
Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, called the lawsuit “particularly promising” because of the criminalization aspect.

North Carolina makes it a misdemeanor for a “minister, officer or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage” under North Carolina law to marry a couple without them having obtained a marriage license, which same-sex couples cannot obtain from the state.

“If this provision applies to purely religious marriage ceremonies, as opposed to only civil marriages solemnized by clergy,” said Davidson, “I believe it would violate the religious freedom guarantee of the First Amendment.”

States law can define who can get married and who cannot. Many states, for instance, ban marriage between first cousins. They justify such bans by pointing to scientific studies that indicate an increased risk for producing children with birth defects. But states with bans on same-sex marriages have had a hard time justifying them, and courts have routinely found their explanations unconvincing. Most lawsuits challenging state bans on allowing same-sex couples to marry argue that the bans are driven by a desire to discriminate against LGBT people.

Gary Buseck, legal director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the religious arguments in support of allowing same-sex couples to marry “have been floating around for some years and have been laid out to some extent in amicus briefs in some cases.” But he says the UCC case may not move far at all simply because there are cases further along in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which includes North Carolina.

The Fourth Circuit will hear arguments May 13 in Bostic v. Schaefer, a case being led by the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies. Lambda Legal and the ACLU have become intervenors in that case because they have a similar one in Virginia, too.

Geoffrey_blackRev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the UCC, said his denomination is “proud to defend the religious freedoms upon which this nation was founded.”

Meanwhile, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper had until Monday to respond to a request in an ACLU-led lawsuit, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, on behalf of six couples. The request is seeking a preliminary injunction and expedited review to allow a lesbian couple’s marriage in Massachusetts be recognized in North Carolina to secure health coverage for their child with cerebral palsy.

Cooper filed a brief Monday opposing the request, calling it an “extraordinary step” that would, in essence, undo the North Carolina law. The brief says the harm that might be experienced by the couple and their child is “outweighed by the harm to the public if State officials are enjoined from enforcing the democratically ratified State laws and Constitution.”

“To alter the definition of marriage, by means of injunctive relief granted prior to this court’s ruling on State Defendants’ pending dispositive motions, prior to the final determination of this action on merits, and prior to the Fourth Circuit’s and the United States Supreme Court’s guidance on this important social issue,” wrote Cooper, “is not in keeping with the applicable jurisprudence or the Supreme Court’s preferred deliberative process. [Plaintiffs’] motion should be denied on this basis alone.”

The response was likely a surprise to some, given that Cooper, a Democrat, has expressed his opposition to the ban on same-sex marriage. But he has also vowed to enforce the law as long as it’s on the books. Local papers have reported for months that Cooper is expected to be a candidate for governor in 2016.

The ACLU has until May 5 to reply to Cooper’s response.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


United Church of Christ and 12 Clergy File Suit Challenging North Carolina's Gay Marriage Ban

UccThe United Church of Christ, 12 clergy members, and a group of gay couples have filed suit challenging North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage, the AP reports:

The clergy members say they would like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but can't because of the law. The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Charlotte includes a dozen clergy members and the United Church of Christ, which has more than 1 million members.

Their attorney, Jake Sussman, says the lawsuit opens a new front in marriage equality litigation. The Rev. J. Bennett Guess says the ban has made is difficult for clergy members to marry same-sex couples: If they do, they know they'll be breaking the law.

The Washington Blade has more: Hoffman

The lawsuit — which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina — argues the marriage amendment violates the religious beliefs of denominations and congregants who support the recognition of gay nuptials and clergy who want to perform them. Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, president of the United Church of Christ, and Rev. Nancy Kraft of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Charlotte are among the plaintiffs who attended a Charlotte press conference.

“As a senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation,” said Rev. Joe Hoffman (pictured) of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, who is a plaintiff along with Diane Ansley and Cathy McGaughey, two of his congregants who have been together for 14 years. “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.”

A lawsuit is already underway in North Carolina, filed earlier this month by the ACLU.


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