MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench and now faces possible removal for ordering probate judges not to issue licenses to homosexuals after an organization that creates lists of “hate groups” filed an ethics complaint against Moore.
As previously reported, in 2013, two lesbians in the state sued Gov. Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis—among others—in an attempt to overturn Alabama’s marriage amendment after one of the women was denied from adopting the other woman’s child.
In January 2015, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled in favor of the women, prompting Moore to send a memo to probate judges throughout the state, advising that they are not required to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples as he believed that Grenade’s ruling only applied to the two women.
“[N]othing in the orders of Judge Grenadae requires Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses that are illegal in Alabama,” he wrote. “Pursuant to … the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Alabama probate judges are not subject to those orders because the probate judges are not parties or associated with any party in those cases.”
“[T]he injunction and the stay or the lifting thereof can only apply to the sole defendant, the Alabama attorney general,” Moore said. “I urge you to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution and the Constitution of the United States to the best of your ability. So help you God.”
Moore also wrote a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, urging him to “uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity.”
“Be advised that I will stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority,” he stated.
Bentley issued a statement soon after, vowing to fight to defend Alabama’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.
“The people of Alabama elected me to uphold our state Constitution, and when I took the oath of office last week, that is what I promised to do,” the governor said. “The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman. As governor, I must uphold the Constitution.”
As confusion ensued over Moore’s letter to probate judges, one judge, John Enslen of Elmore County, asked the full Alabama Supreme Court for further guidance. In March 2015, six of the nine judges of the Alabama Supreme Court released a historic order halting the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses in the state. Moore recused himself from the matter and was not included in the order.
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the 148-page order read. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”
But the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a judicial ethics complaint against Moore over his letter to Gov. Bentley, and the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) submitted 28,000 petition signatures to the JIC calling for Moore’s removal.
In January, Moore sent another letter reinforcing the full court’s order six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“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 license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect,” he wrote on Jan. 6.
But he also noted that his order does not weigh in on how June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling has impact on the Alabama Supreme Court’s directive.
“I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court. That issue remains before the entire court, which continues to deliberate on the matter,” Moore wrote.
On Friday, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) announced that it had filed ethics charges against Moore as a result of the SPLC complaint, and suspended the chief justice while he faces a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
“Clearly, probate judges could no longer exercise a ministerial duty to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based solely on their same-sex character,” the JIC wrote, stating that Moore was “bound by the United State Supreme Court’s interpretation and application” of the U.S. Constitution.
“Moore has disgraced his office for far too long,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen in a statement. “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, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees became the central opponent against Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments on the state Supreme Court grounds, arguing that the chief justice “placed this monument here to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men.”
In addition to taking issue with Moore, SPLC has been known for compiling its list of what it calls “hate groups” due to their biblical stance on homosexual behavior, including Focus on the Family and Family Research Council among its over 1,000 listed organizations.
In 2012, Roy Corkins, who was arrested after entering the offices of Family Research Council with a loaded gun, numerous rounds of ammunition and over a dozen Chick-fil-A sandwiches, told the FBI that his planned massacre was motivated by the “hate group” list on the SPLC website.
“How did you find [this organization] earlier?” an investigator asked in recorded video footage. “Did you look it up online?”
“Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups,” Corkins replied. “I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Tony Perkins, who leads Family Research Council, said that while the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes Christian organizations as “hate groups,” it is instead the Center itself that is being hateful and inciting hatred with its actions.
In response to Friday’s announcement of the ethics charges and his subsequent suspension, Moore remarked that the JIC has no jurisdiction over the matter and pointed to homosexual activists who seek to remove him from office.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“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,” Moore continued. “We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail.”