By Bob Allen
A 97-church group that advocates LGBT inclusion in Baptist churches welcomed last week’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in North Carolina.
“I am overjoyed to see another state remove the barriers to our member congregations being able to offer the same rights and privileges to all couples based on their religious convictions,” Robin Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, said moments after U.S. District Judge Max Coburn ruled Oct. 10 in Charlotte, N.C., against the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Previously AWAB, formed in 1993 during debate over homosexuality in American Baptist Churches USA, joined the Alliance of Baptists, a progressive southern Baptist group formed in the 1980s, and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America in a legal brief claiming the ban discredits religious viewpoints that are not opposed to same-sex marriage.
In 2012 the groups coordinated Many Voices, One Love, a campaign opposing an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution banning gay marriage. The amendment was eventually passed by voters with backing from conservative Christian organizations including the Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
In Friday’s ruling, however, Judge Coburn said North Carolina’s ban is unconstitutional as a matter of law.
“The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue,” Coburn said. “It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.”
The decision came four days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear any appeal of a July ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia’s ban. The court based in Richmond, Va., has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
“This ruling and all of the recent federal rulings striking down bans on same sex marriage gives us hope that all welcoming and affirming churches will soon be free all across the U.S. to live fully into their calls as inclusive communities of faith able to recognize and celebrate all couples who seek to live in both religious and civil marriage,” Lunn commented.
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