May 7, 2016
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Suspended For Violating Judicial Ethics By Denying Gay Marriage Licenses

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended and faces possible removal from the bench. On Friday, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission said the judge violated judicial ethics and "abused authority" in his opposition to gay marriage.

Even though a federal court decided same-sex marriage was legal in Alabama last year, Justice Moore ordered probate judges throughout the state to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples. The court ruled the ban on gay couples getting married violated the state's constitution.

Additionally, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage was a constitutional right, essentially making it the law of the land. This, however, did not deter Chief Justice Moore.

In January, he issued an order to Alabama's 68 probate judges to enforce a ban on gay marriages. While most judges continued to issue licenses to gay couples, some decided to stop approving marriage licenses completely.

"By issuing his unilateral order of January 6, 2016, Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed in all states as declared by the United States Court in Obergefell," the Judicial Inquiry Commission wrote in the charges.

Roy Moore abused his power by ordering other judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told probate judges across the state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. [Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]Justice Moore's defiance of the law prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights legal advocacy group, to file a grievance with the commission. Included in the six charges listed in the complaint against Moore were multiple violations of Alabama's canons of judicial ethics.

When a complaint is received, the commission opens an investigation and then decides if charges should be sent to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Moore has the option to negotiate a settlement, but will be tried before the court if a deal is not made.

"We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail," Moore said in a statement. "The Judicial Inquiry Commission has no authority over the administrative orders of the chief justice of Alabama or the legal injunctions of the Alabama Supreme Court prohibiting probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses."

Moore further accused the commission of being unduly influenced by professed transvestite Ambrosia Starling as well as other gay and bisexual individuals. During a news conference, the judge denied the allegation that he told anyone to violate a federal court order.

Moore will remain suspended with pay until the matter is resolved either in or out of court. If found guilty of the accusations, he will most likely be asked to resign from office.

Mathew Staver, Moore's attorney, said the matter is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve. Claiming Southern Poverty's complaint is entirely politically motivated, he argues the commission cannot decide legal disagreements and the dispute is actually between federal and state courts.

Staver was previously involved in another famous case regarding same-sex marriages. He also represented county clerk Kim Davis after she would not issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky.

Richard Cohen, Southern Poverty's president, insists Judge Moore be permanently removed from office.

"He is such an egomaniac and such a religious zealot that he thinks he can ignore court orders with impunity," Cohen said. "For the sake of our state, he should be kicked out of office."

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been removed from office in the past.
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had legal troubles in 2003 for defying a court order to remove a religious monument from a judicial building. [Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images]As reported by the New York Times, this is the second complaint issued against Moore by the Judicial Inquiry Commission. In 2003, he defied a federal order that required the removal of a large monument representing the Ten Commandments that was placed in the state judicial building. As a result, the commission removed him from the chief justice position.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was re-elected nine years later. The judge is well known for his unyielding opposition to gay marriage, calling it the "ultimate destruction of our country."

[Photo by Gary Tramontina/Getty Images]