In a press conference held Wednesday, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore claimed that the ethics charges being brought against him for violating an order on federal same-sex marriage amount to a targeted political agenda on behalf of “atheists, homosexuals, and transgender individuals.”
In the rotunda of the state Supreme Court, Moore told reporters Wednesday that he had enough of the criticism. “For months I've sat back while complaint after complaint has been filed by persons, individuals, and organizations which have mischaracterized and misstated my position,” Moore said.
Moore is represented by Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel. The Florida-based legal firm, which famously represented embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as recently as October 2015 a “hate group.”
Staver told reporters that the justice’s actions have been misrepresented by the media. “[Moore] never instructed the judges to defy a federal court,” Staver said. “He provided guidance. This case is not about defying the federal courts. It’s about a disagreement between state and federal courts on an issue.
This January, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Moore after the justice penned a letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley last year advising him to “uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage,” as The Anniston Star reports. This correspondence was sent following the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling on marriage equality, which legalized same-sex unions in all 50 states.
The SPLC, which is based in Montgomery, believes that Moore’s actions violate the Canon of Judicial Ethics, which bars judicial officials from making “public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court.” In addition, the group accused Moore of “disrespect for the dignity of the judiciary” and “lack of faithfulness to the law.”
Although the Southern Poverty Law Center is calling for his removal, the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama will decide if Moore will face ethics charges for his actions.
“This is not about any wrongdoing I've done,” the justice continued. “This is not about ethics. This is about my marriage. It’s about my legal judgments which I’ve issued in administrative orders, which is in my capacity as chief justice.”
In his statements, Moore particularly took to task Ambrosia Starling, Birmingham TV station WIAT reports. Starling, a transgender woman who resides in Dothan, Ala., protested the justice’s blocking od same-sex unions in the state by “holding a same-sex marriage ceremony on the steps of the Alabama Judicial Building” in January.
“The message that I would personally like to send to Roy Moore today is that bullying and discrimination are not ministerial duties,” Ambrosia told WIAT during a 2016 protest. “Taking people’s civil rights is not a ministerial duty.”
The Star reports that Moore referred to Starling as a “known transvestite.” “We're in a serious time in this country,” Moore continued. “We're at a time when people who just a few years ago would have been described as having a mental disorder ... today, that person can violate and has violated a court order and is bringing complaints against the chief justice.”
Until 2013, being transgender was classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a “disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s now known to the medical community as “gender dysphoria.”
If Moore were to be disciplined by the Judicial Inquiry Commission, it would not be the first time he has been so reprimanded. He was removed as chief justice in 2003 for refusing to follow a federal court order to remove a monument bearing the Ten Commandments from the state Supreme Court building. Voters returned him to the chief justice's position in 2012.