Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been defying the federal government since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, has been suspended and charged with violating ethical rules for trying to stop probate judges from issuing marriage licenses in the state.
The charges could mean, among other things, that Moore will be removed from the bench.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission accuses Moore of failing to act with impartiality and refusing to follow “clear law” in issuing his Jan. 6 order, which came six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. Moore is also charged with acting while a lawsuit over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage was pending before the court.
The Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from office in 2003 after he refused to obey a federal court order requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Heflin-Tolbert Judicial Building, where the Alabama Supreme Court sits. Moore was re-elected in 2012.
At a press conference last week, Moore called the charges “politically motivated” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and “atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals” who were out to get him:
The Judicial Inquiry Commission has no authority over the Administrative Orders of the Chief Justice of Alabama or the legal injunction of the Alabama Supreme Court prohibiting probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The JIC has chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda.
We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail.
In January, Moore issued an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples telling them they had a “ministerial duty” to do so.
In his order, Moore actually cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling. Moore claimed that the high court’s ruling only applied to Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, the states directly involved in Obergefell.
In March, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed a series of petitions asking it to declare that the state’s ban on gay marriage is still in effect.
That decision meant anti-gay foes like the Alabama Policy Institute were out of legal options to try and fight the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage in Obergefell. However, that fact didn’t stop Chief Justice Roy Moore from writing a scathing rebuke of Obergefell and insisting that the state’s ban on gay marriage was still in effect.
Shortly after the Obergefell ruling, Moore predicted all-out war over it.
Moore said that same-sex marriage would lead to the “persecution” of Christians who would be forced to “accept evil” and “condone sodomy.” He also said it would lead to a massive and possibly violent backlash and claimed that the founding fathers would be “incensed” at the SCOTUS decision, calling the Court a tyrannical force trampling on freedom.
Moore said he saw his battle as a holy one:
“God gives rights and the government’s role is to secure those rights. When governments [sic] dismisses god out of the equation and pretends to get rights, we suffer accordingly.
“I think that’s where we were in 1776 and if government is not securing the rights god gave us….[same-sex marriage] is not really securing it, is it?”
Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen released a statement last night responding to the charges against Moore.
Said Cohen: “Chief Justice Roy Moore has disgraced his office for far too long. He’s such a religious zealot, such an egomaniac that he thinks he doesn’t have to follow federal court rulings he disagrees with. For the good of the state, he should be kicked out of office.”
In 2003, Moore was removed from office for violating a federal court order. What he’s done this time—tell the state’s 68 probate judges to violate a federal court order—is far worse. As our ethics complaints lay out clearly, Moore has violated his oath of office and the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics multiple times.
He has urged state and local officials to violate a binding court order. He has repeatedly commented on pending cases. He has undermined the public’s confidence in the judiciary by denigrating the federal courts and complaining about what he has called “tyranny.”
And, he has improperly lent the prestige of his office to a group called the Foundation for Moral Law, an organization that he founded and that his wife now operates. Moore swore to uphold the United States Constitution. But he has demonstrated in the past, and now once again, that he is willing to put aside the law when it conflicts with his personal religious beliefs. He cannot be trusted to be an impartial arbiter of the law.
We look forward to his trial in the Court of the Judiciary and his eventual removal from office once again.