Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is facing removal from the bench for the second time in 13 years. Moore goes to trial Wednesday on judicial ethics charges for allegedly ignoring a U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
This situation stems from an administrative order Judge Moore sent to state probate judges back in January regarding Alabama’s ban on gay marriage and the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In the order, Moore wrote that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage remained intact, meaning it was still in effect, despite the decision from the higher court.
Moore’s attorney, Mat Staver, says the order was nothing more than a status report to clear up misconceptions and confusion among probate judges because some judges were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, others were refusing to, and some weren’t sure what to do. Staver also says that Moore never told probate what to do, and the order even states that Moore, “[is] not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges…on the matter.”
However, the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which brought the ethics charges, argues the order was in fact a directive to probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court decision, that Moore was trying to use Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban to trump a precedent set by a higher court.
Wednesday’s trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary will likely be a repeat of a hearing last month. Staver says neither side thought this case would make it to trial and neither side wanted this case to go to trial. He says both he and the Judicial Inquiry Commission are equally baffled at the way the situation has played out.
“The JIC, certainly we don’t agree on anything, but we do agree that this case was ready to go for final decision, and we both asked the court to grant summary judgement,” Staver says. “They asked to be granted in their favor. We asked to be granted in our favor. It was pure question of law and there was no need for a trial.”
Staver says all the evidence and information that could be presented by the parties in this case has been presented. So don’t expect any new revelations.
Many Eyes Watching the Outcome
Eva Kendrick is with the Alabama Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, and a big opponent of Chief Justice Roy Moore. Kendrick says the HRC would like to see Moore removed from the Alabama Supreme Court. “That will be the culmination of more than a decade of unethical, extra-legal action by Moore specifically targeting persons with whom he may disagree from a faith-based perspective,” says Kendrick.
Moore is a devout Christian and cites his faith as a reason for his opposition to same-sex marriage. But not all Christians in Alabama agree. Joe Genau, pastor of Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Homewood, disagrees with Moore’s position. “I don’t love and celebrate my LGBT friends in spite of Christian faith,” says Genau. “I love the people that I love because of my faith.”
In 2003, Roy Moore put a Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. A federal court ordered him to remove the monument. Moore refused. Because he refused, he went to trial on charges that he violated judicial ethics by disobeying a higher court order. It’s a situation very similar to the charges over same-sex marriage.
Esther Ciammachilli will be live tweeting during the trial. You can follow her @ee_chilli.
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