NC lawsuit challenges marriage licenses, North Carolina marriage laws require state license, Jeff Thigpen, Reverends Keeney, Peeples, Koenig

NC lawsuit challenges marriage licenses, North Carolina marriage laws require state license, Jeff Thigpen, Reverends Keeney, Peeples, Koenig

The spirit of freedom is still alive in North Carolina.

From the Greensboro News Record, December 14, 2011.

“Suit challenges marriage licenses”

“Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and 10 other people filed a lawsuit last week that challenges a requirement that marrying couples in North Carolina obtain a state-issued license.

The complaint, filed in Guilford County Civil Superior Court on Dec. 8, names state Attorney General Roy Cooper as the defendant. The plaintiffs include three Greensboro ministers and seven heterosexual and homosexual residents from Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Mocksville.

They argue in the complaint that state general statutes violate the U.S. Constitution and the principle of separation of church and state by requiring marrying couples to seek marriage licenses, by requiring religious leaders to fill out and sign them, and by prohibiting religious leaders from solemnizing the marriage of same-sex couples.

The complaint comes about five months before North Carolinians vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriage. The referendum will occur during the May Republican primary.

The complaint reads, “In order (to) adequately and fully protect the personal liberty and religious freedom of citizens of North Carolina and the United States, there must be a de-coupling and disentanglement of the state from the personal and religious institution of marriage. The institution of marriage should be solely in the dominion of citizens and their religious and secular organizations, except that the state should be permitted to carry out prohibitions of marriage for infancy, insanity, bigamy or polygamy, and incest, and marriage as a result of fraud, duress, joke or mistake; and the state should be permitted to adjudicate rights relating to support, child custody, and property in connection with marriages and their dissolution.””

From the print edition.

“The suit is not challenging the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, said Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and others in the lawsuit. Voters will decide that issue in next year’s primary.”

“”It’s not part of anybody else’s agenda,” said Norman Smith, a Greensboro attorney. “It’s part of the agenda of people in this suit who don’t like the state getting into people’s religious and personal affairs.”

“Thigpen said he joined the suit because of his concern about state -imposed obstacles that some people must overcome to get married. He acknowledged his involvement could risk his re-election in November.”

“Why would I want to do this?” asked Thigpen, whose office handles marriage licenses. “These issues have come to me, and I have the obligation to respond to them in a way that is reflective of what’s going on and be a leader in dealing with it.”

“What happens in that sanctuary is between me, the couple, those who are witnessing , and God, “Peeples said. “It has always struck me as very strange, if not contradictory, that I have to sign a legal document and act as an agent of the state. …What we are saying is let’s make a clean separation between those two acts.”

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