Clergy Members Challenge NC Gay Marriage Ban

Some members of the clergy have filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's constitutional ban on gay marriage, saying it violates their religious freedom.

The clerics say they'd like to perform same-sex marriages, but can't because of the constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the United Church of Christ, a dozen clergy members and same sex-couples who want to marry.

But NC Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald, who helped lead a Christian and conservative coalition supporting the constitutional ban, said "It's both ironic and sad that an entire religious denomination and its clergy who purport holding to Christian teachings on marriage would look to the courts to justify their errant beliefs."

Seventeen states allow gay marriage, and federal judges have struck down voter-approved bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)