- The office of Attorney General Ray Cooper declines to comment
- A group of clergy argues the ban violates the First and 14th amendments
- North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage
- Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 U.S states and the District of Columbia
A group of clergy in North Carolina on Monday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
The group argues the ban violates the First and 14 amendments and stigmatizes same-sex couples and the people and institutions that would support them.
"Marriage between two loving individuals is both a fundamental legal right and a cornerstone of almost every religion," says the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte.
"By depriving the Plaintiffs of the freedom to perform religious marriage ceremonies or to marry, North Carolina stigmatizes Plaintiffs and their religious beliefs, and the State relegates the Couple Plaintiffs to second-class status."
The lawsuit was filed by the United Church of Christ, a Protestant religious denomination with some 1.1 million members, various religious leaders, including a rabbi, and some same-sex couples.
Among the defendants are North Carolina Attorney General Ray Cooper, several country district attorneys, and register of deeds.
Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said that as a rule his office does not comment on pending litigation. The state has received the lawsuit, and is currently reviewing it.
"By denying same-sex couples the right to marry and by prohibiting religious denominations even from performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, the State of North Carolina stigmatizes same-sex couples, as well as the religious institutions and clergy that believe in equal rights," the suit says.
North Carolina voted in 2012 to outlaw same-sex marriage, which was already prohibited in the state. Supporters pushed for -- and won -- a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Voters approved the amendment by a large margin.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Besides North Carolina, same-sex marriage is banned by state constitutional amendment or state law in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Worldwide, 16 other countries -- and parts of Mexico -- also have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of these are in Europe and South America.