Roy Moore, the virulently antigay chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been suspended without pay for the remainder of his term due to ethics violations related to his efforts to block marriage equality in his state.
Unless Moore wins an appeal of the suspension, this is the end of his time in office. His term ends in 2019, and because of his age — he is now 69 — state law prevents him from running for the office again, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers.
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued the suspension order today, having found Moore guilty of all six charges brought against him by the state's Judicial Inquiry Commission. The charges arose from Moore's call for Alabama probate judges, who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, to defy the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling.
Moore issued an order to the state's 68 probate judges January 6. telling them to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore, who in the past has said same-sex marriage poses a threat to the nation's very existence, had earlier sought to block marriage equality in Alabama in a variety of ways, saying the federal courts did not have the authority to rule on marriage in the state.
He claimed before the Court of the Judiciary this week that the January 6 order was simply "a status update." The court did not find that credible, notes AL.com.
The Court of the Judiciary could have removed Moore from office outright, but that would have required a unanimous vote of the court's nine members, which they did not have. So they agreed to the suspension, which will have the same effect. Moore can appeal the suspension to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore was removed from office once before, for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building, which a federal court found to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion. He was removed from office in 2003 but was returned to the chief justice position by voters in 2012.
The Court of the Judiciary emphasized that its conviction of Moore did not turn on the merits of marriage equality but on his ethics violations regarding the issue.
The charges brought by the Judicial Inquiry Commission arose from a complain filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group. Richard Cohen, the group's president, expressed satisfaction at Moore's suspension.
“The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench,” Cohen said in a statement posted on the SPLC website. “He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It's something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”
Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint a replacement for Moore.