Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore already lost his job once. Now he’s at risk of losing it again.
A state commission on Friday suspended Moore from the bench, alleging that the top-ranking state judicial official disregarded “clear law” this year when he instructed state judges to ignore the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that established nationwide same-sex marriage rights.
“Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch,” the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission wrote in a Friday filing, uploaded by AL.com.
Moore, 69, faces six charges of violating judicial ethics, all stemming from a Jan. 6 order in which he told state probate judges that they have a “ministerial duty” to abide by state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. That order defies not only the high court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, but also two other court decisions, the commission found.
“In issuing his Administrative Order of January 6, Chief Justice Moore demonstrated an unwillingness to apply the law,” the commission wrote.
As a result of the ongoing case, Moore was automatically suspended from the bench, the Associated Press reported. But this isn’t his first time facing such charges.
Moore was removed from the very same position in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had erected in the state judicial building in Montgomery. He was reelected to the position in 2012.
The state Court of the Judiciary will ultimately decide whether Moore is guilty of violating judicial ethics.
The current investigation was launched after the commission received complaints about Moore’s actions from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that some conservatives accuse of casting too wide a net in its fight against hatred and prejudice.
“In 2003, Moore was removed from office for violating a federal court order. What he’s done this time — tell the state’s 68 probate judges to violate a federal court order — is far worse,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said Friday in a statement.
“He has urged state and local officials to violate a binding court order. He has repeatedly commented on pending cases. He has undermined the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” Cohen said.
In a statement of his own, Moore accused the Judicial Inquiry Commission of being influenced by advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
“The JIC has chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda. We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail,” he said, according to the AP.
Starling is a self-described drag queen who Moore has singled out before, suggesting that she suffers from mental illness and alleging that she performed an “illegal” wedding ceremony, AL.com reports. A local Unitarian Universalist minister, the Rev. Fred Hammond, disputed that latter claim in a blog post late last month, saying that it was he who performed the ceremony.