It’s Time Alabama Removes Chief Justice Roy Moore From the Bench

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore is at it again.

You may remember Moore’s earlier antics when, prior to last year’s Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell, he told probate judges in Alabama to ignore a federal court ruling in favor of marriage equality, threatening legal consequences if any probate judges dared to go against his, and then the full State Supreme Court’s, opinion. Then, after SCOTUS ruled that there is a constitutional right to marriage equality he again attempted to throw doubt on whether the order was binding for Alabama, before quickly back-tracking.

This month Moore is unfortunately attempting to deny same-gender couples their rights again. In a so-called “administrative order” (that is, not an order from the State Supreme Court but one of Moore’s own creating), Moore has said that probate judges must cease giving out same-gender marriage licenses until the state supreme court gives guidance on whether the Obergefell ruling applies.

The order says in part:

Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court. the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage licenses contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.

Moore goes to great lengths to try and justify this position, citing a number of instances where other courts, for example the Kansas Supreme Court, have said that, while the Supreme Court of the United States ruling is controlling precedent, that doesn’t necessarily mean it invalidates a State Supreme Court’s previous findings against marriage equality, for example in cases to do with divorce proceedings and other legal issues. It’s worth noting however that in all the cases Moore cites, no court has attempted to directly intervene to prevent the state issuing same-gender marriage licenses.

Moore is essentially arguing that because Alabama was not named in the suit, the order does not strike the state’s constitutional ban on same-gender marriages and, without specific guidance from the Supreme Court or a determination by the State Supreme Court saying that the order applies to Alabama, the law remains in effect.

It’s important to again stress that this order did not come from the State Supreme Court either. Instead, this is Moore acting as ”Administrative Head of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama.” Technically Moore does hold that position, and he justifies his use of this rather unprecedented move as a means to ensure legal clarity. This is highly irregular though given that there was absolutely no confusion as to whether the order applied. Indeed, Moore seems to be aiming at creating that “legal uncertainty” in order to step in and have the State Supreme Court decide on a legal matter that is no longer being challenged.

Alabama’s branch of the ACLU summarizes how wrong Moore is in one decisive tweet by showing the text of the Obergefell order:

Unfortunately, this is typical of Moore’s continued thumbing of his nose at the supremacy clause of the Constitution. We’ve discussed this before (and you can read more here) but it is this and many other reasons, namely Moore’s inability to separate his own highly conservative and prejudicial religious beliefs from his adjudicating of the law, that has meant there is currently an ethics complaint against him, and one that now takes on new importance in the wake of this extraordinary move.

“Chief Justice Roy Moore is once again demonstrating that he is unfit to hold office,” SPLC President Richard Cohen is quoted as saying. “Despite the fact that Alabama probate judges are under a federal court order that bars them from discriminating against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, Justice Moore has irresponsibly advised them to do the opposite. You would think after being removed from the bench once before that the chief justice would know better.”

The SPLC is behind the ongoing ethics complaint against Moore and says that his previous actions, not just in the same-sex marriage case but in other areas regarding his imposing his religious beliefs, mean that he is in violation of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. In particular here, they point out that while Moore must uphold the state constitution, there are very clear directives (including the supremacy clause) which mean that the federal Constitution wins out. In this case, if same-gender marriage is federal constitutional right, then state marriage bans are rendered unenforcable. There is no room for further deliberation and what Moore is doing is going directly against the will of the SCOTUS because he doesn’t like the result of the Obergefell ruling or same-gender marriage as a basic right.

“Just as Chief Justice Moore’s previous refusal to comply with a federal court order disqualified him for judicial office and necessitated his removal from the bench, his advising other judges to violate a federal court order also requires his removal as Chief Justice of this state’s highest court,” the SPLC says in a supplement to that same ethics complaint so as to include details of this latest debacle.

We will keep you updated on this unfolding situation because, no doubt, Judge Moore will have more to say in the coming days and weeks as the fall out from this continues. In the meantime, the ACLU is asking people who might have been denied a license in Alabama as a result of Judge Moore’s directive to contact them. You can find out more here.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

64 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Christina Klein
Christina Klein1 years ago

Very good!! Why shouldn´t they marry?

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Brett Cloud
Brett Cloud1 years ago

Tyfs.

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Brett Cloud
Brett Cloud1 years ago

Down with Moore!

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Mel Fleming II
Mel Fleming II1 years ago

This Justice cannot simply reverse a ruling of the US Supreme Court, simply because he takes umbrage with it. In fact, has the State attorney general advised him of this? Only the US Supreme court may reverse their decisions, or it must be proven, that how they voted was in itself a direct violation of current federal law. since Justice Moore has done neither, his ruling is invalid. he should be sanctioned, or lifted from the bench

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 1 years ago

No surprise there! Thanks for posting.

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pam w.
pam w1 years ago

To Andrea....excellent questions. If the deity of Roy Moore really did exist....he himself would be struck down for judgemental, hateful and very NON-Christian behavior.

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Natasha Salgado
Past Member 1 years ago

Another douche bag

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Goodbye is best.

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Carole R.
Carole R1 years ago

Moore is outdated. You can use the Bible to prove just about anything.

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