Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore will face a trial-like proceeding today on judicial ethics charges stemming from his defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Moore could be removed from the bench.
Moore, who has been defying the federal government since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, was suspended in May and charged with violating ethical rules for trying to stop probate judges from issuing marriage licenses in the state.
In January, Moore issued an order prohibiting 68 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.
The AP reports on today’s proceedings:
The nine-member Court of the Judiciary will weigh the intent with the memo: Was it a defiant effort to try to block gay marriage or, as Moore contends, a status report in response to probate judges’ questions?
Moore’s attorney Mat Staver said the chief justice told the judges that he was not at “liberty” to offer them advice on what to do. Staver said probate judges were asking questions because the Alabama Supreme Court had not lifted the order after indicating they would make a decision.
John Carroll, a lawyer for the Judicial Inquiry Commission — the group that brought the charges against Moore — told the court last month that Moore’s purpose was clear and now is trying to “pretend away” the charges.
The Guardian notes that Moore has to be looking ahead to his next chapter:
Moore has picked a political fight that may not make sense to people elsewhere. But in Alabama, his intentions are clear: by carrying his fight against the federal government to the brink of judicial destruction, he is appealing to the rebellious nature of Alabamians and positioning himself to run for governor.
The stakes are high for him. He will turn 70 in February, which means he will not be allowed to run for a supreme court spot during the next election, in 2018. And as the sitting chief justice, he has no power to change the trajectory of gay marriage, the issue that brought him to this point. So the worst punishment the Alabama court of judiciary – a court for judges – could inflict on him would be to allow him to serve out his term, fading into obscurity as neither martyr nor decision-maker.
“That’s the irony,” said Wayne Flynt, a historian at Auburn University. “He needs them to remove him.”
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?”