Alabama Chief Justice fights back against campaign to oust him for upholding marriage
MONTGOMERY, Alabama, April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is fighting back as leftist activists campaign to remove him from office over his stand for natural marriage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and numerous atheists and LGBT activists have filed complaints with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission against Moore, alleging ethical misconduct for urging state probate judges to uphold Alabama’s marriage laws and not a federal court ruling striking them down.
But on Wednesday, Justice Moore asked the commission to dismiss the complaints, saying at a press conference that they are groundless and “politically motivated.”
“This is not about a wrongdoing I’ve done. This is not about ethics. This is about marriage,” said Moore, according to Alabama News. “There’s nothing in writing that you will find that I told anybody to disobey a federal court order.”
Moore has ordered probate judges in Alabama to uphold the state’s laws defining marriage as the union of a man and woman despite a federal court ruling striking down those laws and despite the Supreme Court’s redefining of marriage in its landmark decision Obergefell v. Hodges. Moore has instructed the judges not to act contrary to Alabama law—which issuing same-sex “marriage” licenses would contradict—until the Supreme Court rules on which law should be applied in the state.
Most probate judges in Alabama have ignored Moore and issued same-sex “marriage” licenses.
Moore insists that he’s not encouraging probate judges to defy a federal court order, as leftist activists claim, but is instructing them to continue following the state laws protecting marriage. Moore says that the judges are obligated to follow state law until the United States Supreme Court rules on the Alabama Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s marriage laws despite federal demands.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, the group with whom the SPLC and other LGBT activists have filed their complaint, has not yet responded. The Commission has the authority to recommend Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which could then remove Moore from the Court if they find he’s violated the Alabama Judicial Canons of Ethics or engaged in misconduct. The vast majority of judges brought before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary face some sort of disciplinary action, which can range from being removed from the bench to suspension.
In 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore as Chief Justice over his refusal to follow a federal court’s orders that he remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. Moore was re-elected as Chief Justice in 2012.
The opinion that removed Moore as Chief Justice in 2003 said that the oath he took commands him “to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions” and if there is a conflict between the documents, “the Constitution of the United States must prevail.”
“Nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage,” Moore wrote to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley on January 27, 2015. “The people of this state have specifically recognized in our Constitution that marriage is ‘[a] sacred covenant, solemnized between a man and a woman’; that ‘[a] marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state’; and that ‘[a] union replicating marriage of or between persons of the same sex…shall be considered and treated in all respects as having no legal force or effect in this state.’”
The “destruction” of marriage is “upon us by federal courts using specious pretexts based on the Equal Protection, Due Process, and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution,” Moore wrote. “If we are to preserve that ‘reverent morality which is our source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement,’ then we must act to oppose such tyranny!”
The federal court decision was not binding for Alabama probate judges, Moore argued, and probate judges should continue to follow Alabama law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
On January 6, 2016, despite the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which redefined marriage across the United States, Moore issued an administrative order to the state’s probate judges “not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act.” Moore said that judges should not act contrary to state laws until the Supreme Court rules on the effects of Obergefell on the Alabama Supreme Court’s existing orders, which uphold the state’s marriage laws.
“Whether or not the Alabama Supreme Court will apply the reasoning of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, or some other legal analysis is yet to be determined. Yet the fact remains that the administration of justice in the State of Alabama has been adversely affected by the apparent conflict between the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in API [which upheld natural marriage] and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell,” Moore wrote.
At a rally on the plaza of the Alabama Judicial Building on January 12, an activist who appeared to be a man dressed as a woman encouraged the LGBT activists and supporters present to fill out form complaints against Moore, even providing “suggested text” that the activists could use. A free notary was present to formalize the complaints, which joined the SPLC’s ongoing ethics complaint against Moore and the HRC’s 28,000-signature petition to the Judicial Inquiry Commission demanding Moore’s removal.
The rally finished with a same-sex wedding ceremony in spite of the Alabama Supreme Court’s existing orders protecting marriage, which remain under review, Liberty Counsel reported.
“The complaints against Chief Justice Roy Moore are about marriage, as indicated by the rally held on the steps of the Supreme Court. He did nothing wrong,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The politically motivated complaints filed with the JIC have no basis in the Canons of Judicial Ethics. The Alabama Supreme Court is the only body that has statutory authority to overrule administrative orders of the Chief Justice…The complaints filed against the Chief Justice ask the JIC to usurp the legal authority of the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court to review the administrative orders of the Chief Justice. Those complaints also pose a threat to the doctrine of judicial independence. Judges must be free to exercise their considered judgment without the threat of being attacked by organizations and individuals who wish to misuse the ethical process to further a radical political agenda.”