Moore denies telling judges to block gay marriages
Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2016
By Kim Chandler | The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lawyers for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore argued Tuesday in a legal filing that the judge never ordered state probate judges to defy the federal courts on gay marriage even though he sent them a memo saying a state court order to refuse same-sex marriage licenses remained in “full force and effect.”
The Alabama chief justice is suspended from the bench and could be removed from office, after the state Judicial Inquiry Commission accused him of violating judicial ethics with the January administrative order to probate judges.
The order, issued six months after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide, told Alabama probate judges that a 2015 state Supreme Court injunction to refuse same-sex marriage licenses remained in effect.
In the Tuesday filing, Moore’s attorneys asked the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to dismiss charges against the outspoken Republican jurist. The state panel hears ethics complaints against judges.
Moore’s attorneys argued his January order correctly informed judges that a 2015 injunction issued by the Alabama Supreme Court had not been lifted and that the court was still deliberating what to do with that order following the federal marriage decision.
“The Administrative Order of Chief Justice Moore expressly said he could not provide guidance to the probate judges because the matter was pending before the Alabama Supreme Court. The JIC apparently wanted the Chief Justice to openly disobey the Alabama Supreme Court and to take matters into his own hands,” Moore’s attorney Mat Staver said in a statement.
His lawyers noted another section of the order in which Moore said he was “not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Moore was removed from the office in 2003 for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building. His attorneys rejected suggestions that Moore was again defying — or urging defiance — of the federal courts.
“The intent to sell the theme: ‘He’s doing it again!’ is evident in the complaint,” his lawyers wrote. “Although the JIC wishes to create the appearance that the Chief Justice ordered the probate judges to defy the federal courts, he, in fact, did not do so. He merely instructed them that the Alabama Supreme Court’s orders … remained in effect until modified by that Court.”
His attorneys also claimed that the commission overstepped its authority with the charges against Moore.
Moore’s suspension comes amid a season of political upheaval in Alabama that has ensnared Republicans at the top of all three branches of state government.
Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was removed from office after being convicted of violating state ethics law. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has faced calls for his impeachment following a sex-tinged scandal
The Judicial Inquiry Commission last month filed charges against Moore, saying his actions showed disrespect for the judiciary and his order was contrary to clear and determined law.
“By issuing his unilateral order of January 6, 2016, Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed in all states as declared by the United States Court in Obergefell,” the Judicial Inquiry Commission wrote in the charges.
Moore’s order didn’t have much impact on the marriage landscape in Alabama. Most counties continued to issue marriage licenses to gay couples within days of his orders. A few counties have suspended marriage license operations altogether to avoid giving licenses to same-sex couples.