Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists react to the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court recognizing same-sex marriage as a civil right during a celebration April 3, 2009. Getty Images

The eight bishops who lead the United Methodist Church in North Carolina have chosen a side in the fight over HB2 — and it's not the one you might expect. In an open letter posted online Monday, the bishops called for the state to repeal the recently passed law restricting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, according to WRAL.

"We dare not add to the increasing levels of fear, suspicion and divisiveness in our state and in our nation. Our calling to welcome, to forgive, and to love both God and neighbor is our powerful gift to the world," the bishops wrote. "We observe the hurried passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) and its resultant harm to North Carolina — to individuals, to our economy, to our engagements with other states and nations, and to our future."

They also urged their followers to pray and listen to people with opposite opinions "in courageous advocacy for what is right, just and good for all people in North Carolina."

The state Legislature approved HB2 over the course of one day last month. In addition to rolling back anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, the law forces transgender residents to use public bathrooms that align with their biological sex. Proponents argue that the policy is aimed at preserving privacy and will prevent women and girls from encountering dangerous men in the restroom.

Critics don't see it that way — the rule is an intentional effort by the Republican government to demean transgender people, they say. Backlash has been growing over the past few weeks. Artists like Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Nick Jonas have canceled performances in the state, while at least 13 organizations have called off conventions they'd planned in Charlotte.

Within the religious community, responses have been mixed. Some churches have declined to take stances on the law, while others have come out forcefully against it. Think Progress reported "dozens of religious leaders bearing collars, stoles and yarmulkes" came out Monday to the capitol to protest the bill.

"We see this as a human rights and a human dignity issue," the Rev. John McLaughlin, of St. Jude's Metropolitan Community Church in Wilmington, told the Star News.

Monday's letter wasn't the United Methodists' first foray into the debate. The Rev. Val Rosenquist and Bishop Melvin Talbert presided over a same-sex wedding this past weekend at First United Methodist Church in Charlotte. Although same-sex marriage is legal, church leaders traditionally condemn it.

“These folks are our brothers and sisters,” Rosenquist told the Charlotte Observer. “It’s just a matter of obeying our covenant with one another throughout the church, that we are to minister to all and to treat all the same. I’m just following what I was ordained to do, what I was baptized to do."