Baptist group joins lawsuit against Amendment One
The Alliance of Baptists has added its name this week to the plaintiffs of a lawsuit filed in April against the state over Amendment One, which bans same sex marriage and clergy officiating of those marriages.
The Rev. Diane Eubanks Hill, associate minister at Watts Street Baptist, which belongs to the alliance, said the group hopes the lawsuit will make it so pastors can marry whomever they feel called to marry.
“It’s an important religious liberties issue,” she said Thursday afternoon at a news conference at the church. Watts Street has been a “welcoming and affirming” congregation to LGBT individuals into the life of the church since 2009. Church members at the gathering on front steps held signs that read “Another Baptist Voting Against Amendment One,” which passed in North Carolina as a ballot measure in May 2012.
Another Triangle Baptist pastor, the Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, is one of the original plaintiffs of the suit, and her church is an alliance member as well.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing the Alliance of Baptists is joining the lawsuit because the more we can represent diversity of faith, the stronger our action is,” Petty said. The coalition strengthens the cause of people who are saying “what our state is doing is wrong,” she said.
Alliance of Baptists President the Rev. Michael Castle, of Ohio, said that love demands that they speak and act when people are being harmed.
“Justice demands that we stand for the liberty and fair treatment of all people when that liberty and equality is threatened,” Castle said.
The Rev. April Baker, vice president of the alliance and pastor of a church in Nashville, Tennessee, said that requiring a license from the state for the ritual “is an unpalatable intrusion of the state into the life of a congregation.”
Attorney Stephen T. Smith of Raleigh, who is legal counsel to the alliance, said that Amendment One is a violation of the free exercise of religion, violation of due process of law and violation of equal protection of law. The violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, he said, is by providing marriage to opposite sex couples but not to same sex couples, precluding them from enjoying rights associated with marriage.
Chapel Hill Councilwoman Maria T. Palmer, a member of Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist in Chapel Hill, said the alliance takes the work of justice seriously.
“As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lamented the denigration of our LGBT sisters and brothers in the debate by those who claim to speak for God,” Palmer said. Being part of the lawsuit means offering more than refuge, but to stand with LGBT sisters and brothers “inside and outside” the church.
The Rev. Christopher T. Copeland of Durham married his husband in Washington, D.C. this past summer, where same sex marriage is legal, and held a ceremony in September at Binkley Baptist.
“The fact that North Carolina does not recognize our family as a legal entity has led to numerous challenges over the past nine months,” Copeland said, from creating multiple legal documents when traveling, to insurance policies and filing taxes. A 10th generation North Carolinian, he said that because this is his home, the time has come for marriage equality here.
The suit is currently pending in federal district court in Charlotte, and the new plaintiffs will file an amended complaint. Attorney General Roy Cooper asked for a stay because of the pending outcome of a case in Virginia, but this lawsuit is based on a different argument, said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, national officer of the United Church of Christ.
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