The Universal Life Church, best known as the website where your buddy can pay a few bucks to become an “ordained priest” in order to conduct your wedding ceremony, just sued a county clerk in North Carolina for effectively blocking them from ordaining marriages.
It’s the third lawsuit they’ve filed regarding this issue. Back in June, after Tennessee lawmakers passed a law blocking people from officiating weddings if they were ordained online, the ULC announced a federal lawsuit against four county clerks and the state’s attorney general to block the law from taking effect. They have also sued Clark County, Nevada for not counting them as a “valid religious organization,” thereby capping the number of weddings they can officiate at five. Both cases are still ongoing.
Now, they say, Betsy Harnage, the Register of Deeds of Cleveland County, NC, a.k.a. the Kim Davis of her region, refuses to “issue marriage licenses to couples whose marriage ceremonies were performed by ULC Monastery ministers.” That means she’s privileging some religions above theirs.
The ULC says Harnage’s actions violate both the U.S. and state constitutions.
According to a press release from the organization, there may be a reason Harnage doesn’t want ULC-sanctioned weddings to “count.”
Observers have surmised that the efforts being undertaken by officials in North Carolina and Tennessee to curtail the rights of ULCM ministers represent a surreptitious maneuver designed to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed. The Universal Life Church Ministries has long been a vocal advocate for marriage equality, and in many locations its ministers are the only option for those couples seeking a religious wedding ceremony in their area that comports with their values.
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