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“This lawsuit introduces a First Amendment claim that the marriage ban in North Carolina violates the right to the free exercise of religious beliefs by denominations, clergy and congregants who believe that same-sex marriages are theologically valid and want to perform marriage ceremonies,” Sussman said.

But NC Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald, who helped lead a coalition of Christian and conservative groups supporting the state’s 2012 constitutional amendment, said the lawsuit is an attempt to void the will of voters who backed traditional marriage. Six in 10 voters backed changing North Carolina’s constitution.

“This is sadly, and predictably, the ‘lawsuit of the week’ filed by those who want to impose same-sex marriage on North Carolina,” Fitzgerald said. “Moreover, 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.”