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North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban Protested By Gay Ministers

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A man protests after legislators voted to put an amendment that would ban gay marriage on the 2012 North Carolina ballot. | AP

As the battle over same-sex marriage continues to cause tensions around the country, a group of ministers and their supporters are launching a protest Monday afternoon in favor of marriage equality in North Carolina.

After the state legislature voted last month to put a constitutional amendment that would effectively ban same-sex marriage on the state's 2012 election ballot, gay couples will line up on Monday at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office in Asheville, N.C., to request marriage licenses. Those requests will be denied, as marriage is in the state is currently legally defined as being between a man and a woman. The amendment that the couples are protesting would enshrine that definition in the state's constitution.

The Rev. Kathryn Cartledge and Elizabeth Eve, her partner of 30 years, will be the first to request a marriage license on Monday. They'll be joined by several supporters, including clergy and politicians from Asheville. Cartledge and Eve said that they plan to re-request a marriage license in the coming days after Monday's denied request.

"I have lived an authentic life," said Cartledge, a United Church of Christ minister, "and I am convinced that only love can change the heart of someone who thinks I am less than equal."

The protest, which will continue through Oct. 14, is organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality.

In the heated debate over same-sex marriage, which has been banned by constitutional amendment in several states and legalized in a handful of others, religious groups have played a strong role both for and against marriage equality measures. In New York, which legalized same-sex marriage this summer, Roman Catholic bishops were unsuccessful in their attempts to convince Catholic legislators to vote against the legalization of gay marriage. In Maryland, a similar bill died in March because it did not have enough support, with some legislators citing church opposition as one of the reasons they did not support it. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Roman Catholic who has clashed with the denomination's leadership over the issue, has said he will make it a priority to legalize same-sex marriage next year.

In North Carolina, Cartledge will lead an interfaith blessing of LGBT families and clergy with the Rev. Joe Hoffman, another United Church of Christ minister, during the 13-day protest.

"For me, this is an act of faith, of saying that we are all equal in God's eyes, and we who believe this must live that truth. We who are allies must support our LGBT friends as they act with great courage, and we must struggle alongside them until our laws catch up with reality. And we will treat those who oppose us with respect and empathy while at the same time not allowing injustice to go unchallenged. This is what I understand the way of Jesus to be," said Hoffman.

More information on the Campaign for Southern Equality's "We Do" campaign is available here.

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