Alabama’s highest judge has issued a strongly worded letter to Gov. Robert Bentley urging him to fight back against last week’s federal court ruling overturning the state’s marriage protection laws, which define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
“As you know, nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage,” wrote Chief Justice Roy Moore in the three-page letter.
“As of this date, 44 federal courts have imposed by judicial fiat same-sex marriages in 21 states of the union, overturning the express will of the people in those states,” Moore wrote. Bentley, he said, should “uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity.” Moore also advised probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, arguing that to do so would be a violation of state law.
“As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” wrote Moore. “Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”
Bentley, a Republican, released a statement in response to Moore’s letter indicating that he will continue to defend the state’s marriage laws from federal interference.
“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. I am disappointed in Friday's ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.”
The left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) has filed a judicial complaint against Moore in response to the justice’s letter, arguing that his defense of state and natural law over federal law is a violation of judicial ethics.
Moore “denies the supremacy of federal law and maintains that it is trumped by the Alabama constitution and biblical principles,” wrote the SPLC. “In doing so, Chief Justice Moore has demonstrated complete disregard of and disdain for one of the foundational principles of our constitutional system—the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”
“Chief Justice Moore’s express rejection of this foundational principle evidences either a lack of faithfulness to a principle of law that is beyond dispute or an utter lack of competence that renders him subject to discipline,” the SPLC added.
The SLPC also objected to Moore’s harsh statements regarding activist judges, arguing that public criticism of their behavior may lead the people to lose their faith in the federal courts.
“The disregard for the integrity of members of the federal judiciary that Chief Justice Moore propounds in his letter is nearly unprecedented,” wrote the SPLC. “He accuses the federal judiciary of being intent on ‘destruction’ of the institution of marriage. He complains that the forty-four federal courts that have found marriage restrictions unconstitutional have done so by means of ‘judicial fiat.’ He further characterizes the growing number of such decisions as ‘tyranny.’”
“Chief Justice Moore is duty bound to uphold the integrity ‘the judiciary’ [sic] as the impartial branch of our government to which all Alabamians – Christian or Jew, man or woman, gay or straight – can turn for justice or for protection from government overreach or intrusion,” the SPLC wrote. “His wild and unfounded invocation of purported federal judicial ‘tyranny’ directly undermines, and indeed appears intended to undermine, public confidence in the federal judiciary.”
This is not Chief Justice Moore’s first battle with the SPLC nor with the federal courts. In 2002, the SLPC sued Moore in an attempt to force him to remove a monument displaying the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. Moore refused, but a federal court judge ruled that the monument violated the constitution by appearing to favor a particular faith, and ordered it removed. Later, the SPLC filed a similar ethics complaint against Moore, resulting in his temporary removal as Chief Justice. However, Moore was re-elected by the people of Alabama in 2012.
“For the sake of all Alabamians who believe in the rule of law, we hope that the result is the same this time [and Moore is removed],” SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement. “The people of Alabama elected Moore to be a judge, not to be their priest.”
The federal ruling striking down Alabama’s marriage laws is on hold pending the state’s appeal to the 11th Circuit. If neither the 11th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court step in, same-sex “marriage” will be forced on the state February 9.