The state of North Carolina acts unconstitutionally in NCGS §§ 51-1 and 51-6, with respect to pastors, priests and rabbis performing marriage ceremonies, in three respects. First, it is unconstitutional for the state to make the pastor, priest or rabbi an agent of the state for the purpose of carrying out the ceremony and participating in the submission of the state-granted license for marriage, since this amounts to a state establishment of religion. Second, it is unconstitutional for the state to require individuals who are entering into marriage, to participate in a ceremony prescribed by the state, and to participate in the licensing of the marriage, since this violates freedom of religion. Third, it is unconstitutional for the state to make it unlawful for a pastor, priest or rabbi to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples.
A historical treatise on marriage written by plaintiff Daniel W. Koenig and attorney Norman B. Smith is found here.
Plaintiffs include Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen; the Rev. Randall Keeney, rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church; the Rev. Julie Peeples, rector at Congregational United Church of Christ; and Al Brilliant, co-owner of Glenwood Coffee and Books.
Plaintiff Jeff L. Thigpen, as register of deeds of Guilford County, North Carolina, and as a citizen of North Carolina and the United States, objects and finds it morally and constitutionally repugnant to administer a system which requires all persons entering into marriage to have licenses that will be recorded; to obligate pastors, priests and rabbis who are performing marriage ceremonies to perform them pursuant to licenses issued by the state; and to require either the religious or civil solemnization of marriages.
The complaint states that Keeney and Peeples believe it to be a violation of their religious rights, the religious rights of their churches, and the religious rights of persons for whom they performs marriages, to require that they act as agents of the state in solemnizing the marriages and participating in the licensure thereof, and when they act illegally and subject to punishment if they marry persons ceremonially without having their marriages licensed by the state. These plaintiffs and their churches are willing to solemnize the marriages of same-sex couples. These plaintiffs and their churches are willing to solemnize the marriages of persons who do not wish to have their marriages licensed and registered.
Other plaintiffs include a pastor who is “willing to solemnize the marriages of persons who do not wish to have their marriages licensed and registered,” but declines to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples; a same-sex couple desiring to have a non-religious ceremonial marriage; a same-sex couple desiring to have a religious ceremonial marriage; and a couple that wishes to have a religious ceremonial marriage but are unwilling to obtain a state-issued license because they are disabled and would lose their Medicaid benefits.
The final plaintiff is Alan Brilliant.
Plaintiff Alan Brilliant is unmarried, but may wish to enter into marriage in the future. He is heterosexual, and if he were to marry, would marry a woman. This plaintiff finds it morally and constitutionally repugnant to participate in any type of ceremony required by the state, or to have his marriage licensed without his agreement and consent, believing that these legal requirements violate his rights of personal and religious freedom.