by: Eric Philips Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some clergy members are filing a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's constitutional ban on gay marriage, saying it violates their religious freedom.
The clergy members say they would like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but can't because of the law.
The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Charlotte includes a dozen clergy members and the United Church of Christ, which has more than 1 million members.
Their attorney, Jake Sussman, says the lawsuit opens a new front in marriage equality litigation.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess says the ban has made is difficult for clergy members to marry same-sex couples: If they do, they know they'll be breaking the law.
Seventeen states allow gay marriage and federal judges have struck down bans in four states.
Legal experts said the part of the lawsuit arguing religious freedom promised under the constitution isn't very strong.
“I don't think that legal claim is going to carry much weight because you don't have a legal duty to do something that's illegal so then we have to go to the question of is the underlying law which declares same sex marriages illegal constitutional or not,” said legal expert Scott Broyles.
The North Carolina Values Coalition called this the "lawsuit of the week" by those who want to impose same sex marriage.
The executive director says the voters of North Carolina who passed the marriage amendment have already spoken.