Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended without pay from the state supreme court on Friday—a suspension that will last through the remainder of his term, which ends in 2018. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found that Moore violated ethics laws and judicial canons by repeatedly attempting to block same-sex marriage in Alabama long after the federal judiciary required it.
Moore’s misconduct regarding same-sex marriage litigation was sweeping and extensive. In January of 2015, a federal judge invalidated the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Moore promptly wrote letters to probate judges insisting that they remained legally prohibited from marrying gay people—in effect, demanding that they violate a federal court order. In May of that year, the judge explicitly held that probate judges must issue marriage licenses to all couples, same-sex or opposite-sex. The next month, the Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Yet in January of 2016, Moore issued yet another letter ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Then, in March, Moore penned a bizarre opinion calling the Supreme Court’s decision “immoral,” “tyrannical,” and “unconstitutional.” He declared that he would refuse to follow it and urged all other state judges to follow suit. In response to Moore’s repeated defiance of federal court orders, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a judicial ethics complaint against him. Moore secured Mat Staver, Kim Davis’ attorney, to defend him.
Alabama’s judicial ethics court is not a beacon of progressivism. Its judgment in the Moore case begins with a declaration that many members of the court do not “personally agree” with the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling or think it was “well reasoned.” But the court unanimously concluded that Moore had abused his position, violated the integrity of the judiciary, failed to comply with the law and perform his duties impartially, and brought “the judicial office into disrepute.” In addition to suspending Moore, the court ordered him to pay “the costs of this proceeding.”
Moore has already been removed from the bench once, in 2003, for refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a massive granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Judicial Building. Alabama voters, however, reelected him in 2012. In response to the Moore proceedings, the Alabama Republican Party is attempting to diminish the ethics court’s independence.