North Carolina couple and RIC Lutheran Pastor join landmark lawsuit to protect First Amendment rights of clergy

NC UCC Lawsuit web

BREAKING NEWS: Today a Lutheran couple and their Pastor joined a landmark lawsuit to protect First Amendment rights of North Carolina clergy. 

According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, this lawsuit, filed in a Federal District Court by the United Church of Christ, is the first such case brought by a national religious denomination challenging a state’s marriage laws. 

The UCC is joined by a Lutheran pastor, a rabbi, two Unitarian-Universalist ministers and a Baptist pastor, as well as by several same-gender couples. They said that North Carolina’s marriage law “represents an unlawful government intervention into the internal structure and practices of plaintiffs’ religions.” 

One of those couples, Joanne and Cathy, both attend Reconciling in Christ congregation, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Charlotte, where they have been members for approximately 25 years. 

“Our church family is like family to us. They have watched, loved and supported our children and our relationship throughout our lives. Pastor Nancy is an amazing pastor and person with whom we have great respect and love,” Cathy and Joanne said in a statement. 

“Honestly, we can’t imagine anyone else officiating our legal marriage. While others may choose to go to another state to be legally married, we cannot imagine being married without the presence of our faith community and our Pastor officiating the ceremony.”

Nancy Cathy JoanneThe Rev. Nancy Kraft, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC, stands with Cathy Fry and Joanne Marinaro at the press conference Monday morning.

The Rev. Nancy KraftThe Rev. Nancy Kraft

“Can anyone tell me how this is not a violation of our freedom to practice our religion in a way that is consistent with our beliefs? Of course I would never tell another pastor or congregation that they must marry same gender couples if doing so went against their deeply held beliefs.” Pastor Nancy writes on her blog.

“But why is it okay for those who disagree with the religious beliefs of my faith community to decide how we may or may not be able to practice those beliefs?”

They have been in a committed relationship since June 15, 1986, and live together in a home in Huntersville, N.C. that they built in 1988. Cathy and Joanne have two children: Kaley, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina – Asheville in 2013, and Joseph, who is currently in his second semester at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. 


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