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Alabama's Antigay Chief Justice Scolds Ruth Bader Ginsburg on 'Judicial Ethics'

Alabama's Antigay Chief Justice Scolds Ruth Bader Ginsburg on 'Judicial Ethics'

Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore thinks U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be impeached because she officiated a same-sex wedding earlier this month, reports Right Wing Watch

"Now [Ginsburg is] commenting on a case which is before her, and under judicial ethics of federal judges, she can’t do that," Moore told antigay hate group leader Tony Perkins on Perkins's Washington Watch radio show Friday. "[Ginsburg] is doing it in the face of plain evidence that she’s violating the ethical rules for federal judges. … If Congress is going to let these justices disobey the Constitution they’re sworn to uphold, then Congress has a check and a balance. It’s called impeachment."

Moore's complaint about a supposed violation of judicial ethics is ironic, given that Moore has arisen this year as arguably the most vocal and powerful opponent of legal marriage equality in Alabama. 

After a federal judge struck down Alabama's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (twice), Moore instructed probate judges (who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Alabama) and the governor to outright ignore the pro-equality ruling. In case that wasn't clear enough, Moore then issued instructions to those probate judges telling them they could find themselves in violation of state law if they followed federal guidance and issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Moore's unapologetic religious rationale for his judicial obstructionism prompted the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center to file an ethics complaint against him, claiming that the judge is "once again wrapping himself in the Bible and thumbing his nose at the federal courts and federal law." The complaint alleges that Moore is promoting lawlessness by encouraging elected officials to ignore federal court rulings and is in violation of his duties by commenting publicly on pending cases that may well come before him or other justices on his court, according to The New Civil Rights Movement

Before Alabama became ground zero in the ongoing nationwide fight over marriage equality, Moore tangled with federal courts in 2003. At that time, Moore was removed as Alabama’s chief justice for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, the court having ruled that the monument was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Voters returned him to the chief justice office in 2012.

Ultimately, as Zack Ford at ThinkProgress notes, it's perfectly legal (and judicially ethical) for Ginsburg to officiate the wedding of two men who are in no way involved in the marriage equality cases currently before the Supreme Court. Because the couple was married in Washington, D.C., (where marriage equality is legal), and since District law permits any "judge or retired judge of any court of record" to officiate a marriage ceremony, Ginsburg was well within her rights to perform the marriage. 

As Ford rightly explains: 

"Ginsburg was simply performing one of her official duties, administering the law as befits her constitutional title. Furthermore, she made no public comment on whether the couples were entitled to those marriages under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, the actual question at stake in the same-sex marriage cases [before the Supreme Court]."

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