MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore took the stand during his ethics hearing on Wednesday, telling those gathered that he never told probate judges in the state to defy the United States Supreme Court’s opinion on “gay marriage.”
“I don’t encourage anyone to defy a federal court or state court order,” Moore stated, remarking that it is “ridiculous” to believe otherwise. “I gave them a status in the case, a status of the facts that these orders exist. That is all I did.”
He said that he sent a memo to his colleagues at the Alabama Supreme Court, which had issued an order in March 2015 halting the issuance of same-sex licenses in the state apart from Moore, urging them to provide guidance in light of the federal Obergefell decision.
When they did not, he released a memo in January advising judges about the status quo until the court issues instructions as requested.
His attorney, Mat Staver with Liberty Counsel, outlined the same in speaking during the trial, remarking that the Alabama Supreme Court had left probate judges hanging in their confusion over whether to issue licenses or not.
“The Alabama Supreme Court had the case pending about what to do with the federal orders and they did not rule on it,” he explained.
Staver said the crux of the matter is whether or not Moore’s memo should be considered an order. He contended Moore’s document was “more like a status report.”
As previously reported, Moore had written in his Jan. 6 memo, “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.”
But on Wednesday, Ashby Pate, an attorney with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), told the Court of the Judiciary (JIC) that Moore “urged defiance, not compliance, for defying a decision already settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“We are here 13 years later because the chief justice has learned nothing,” also asserted lead prosecutor John Carroll, referring to Moore’s removal from the bench in 2003 for refusing to stop acknowledging God.
A number of Moore’s supporters gathered outside of the Alabama Supreme Court during the trial, preaching, praying and holding signs. Those opposing Moore also stood outside of the building, some with the “Magic City Sisters,” who painted their faces white and wore costumes.
A decision is expected within 10 days.
As previously reported, Moore was suspended from the bench in May and now faces possible removal after the homosexual advocacy groups Southern Poverty Law Center, People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, and a drag queen who goes by the name Ambrosia Starling, pressed the JIC to take action against Moore.
The situation began in 2013 when 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.
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.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) then 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.
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.”
Three months after the Alabama Supreme Court issued its order, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Alabama court did not immediately lift its order following the ruling as it took time sorting through the matter.
Therefore, in January, Moore sent another letter advising that the full court’s remained in effect until it issued directives in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell.
“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 memo did not weigh in on how June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling has impact on the Alabama Supreme Court’s directive, and said that it was not his place to make that determination. In March, the court finally issued its opinions on the matter, dismissing all outstanding cases before the bench.
In May, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) announced that it had filed ethics charges against Moore, and suspended the chief justice while he faces a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
“He says that the orders that the Alabama Supreme Court issued in March of 2015 are still outstanding, and the Alabama Supreme Court is going to review those, which they are, and make a decision, which they did—later, in March,” Moore’s attorney said during a hearing last month. “That’s all he said. And for that, they ultimately charged him with advocating open defiant disobedience to the entire judiciary, beginning with the United States Supreme Court and on down.”