Roy Moore, the notoriously antigay chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is facing ethics charges before the state’s Court of the Judiciary over his attempts to block marriage equality.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission sent the charges to the court Friday, accusing Moore of violating judicial ethics by seeking to stop same-sex marriages from taking place in the state, even after a federal district court and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s ban on such marriages violated the U.S. Constitution, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers.
Moore is suspended with pay from his position of chief justice until the court rules on the charges.
If he is found guilty, Moore could lose his position on the court for a second time, and possibly even permanently, although the Court of the Judiciary could impose a lesser punishment. He was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 because of his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court building after a federal judge ordered him to do so because the monument was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Voters in Alabama, where Supreme Court justices are elected, returned him to the court in 2012.
The charges against Moore arise from a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group. The commission investigated the complaint, then decided to charge Moore with the ethics violations in the Court of the Judiciary. “Unless Moore reaches a settlement, he will be tried before that court, with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office prosecuting,” AL.com explains.
The SPLC contended that Moore committed a breach of ethical behavior by advising county probate judges, who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Alabama, not obey court rulings establishing marriage equality. He did so after U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage in February 2015 and continued to do so even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June. As late as January, he said the ban remained in force, claiming the federal judiciary had no authority over marriage in Alabama. Most counties issued licenses to same-sex couples anyway, and Moore finally gave up the legal battle in March. He said, though, that he personally believed the ban remained legitimate and that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was “but the latest example of the Court’s creation of constitutional rights out of thin air in service of the immorality of the sexual revolution.”
Moore had previously said that marriage equality would destroy the nation. He also had equated the marriage equality ruling with the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which maintained slavery in the U.S., and said that enforcing it would be like obeying orders in Nazi German’s slaughter of Jews.
SPLC president Richard Cohen issued a statement praising the commission’s action. “Moore has disgraced his office for far too long,” Cohen said. “He’s such a religious zealot, such an egomaniac that he thinks he doesn’t have to follow federal court rulings he disagrees with. For the good of the state, he should be kicked out of office.”
This article has been updated with news of Moore's suspension.