Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was on Friday removed from the bench for defying the US Supreme Court on gay marriage, more than a decade after he was ousted for disobeying a federal order to take down a 2-tonne monument to the Ten Commandments.
The nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore for the remainder of his term. Although the court stopped short of outright removing him as they did in 2003, the punishment has the same effect, ending his period as Alabama’s top jurist.
The judiciary court ruled that Moore defied law already clearly settled by the high court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling when he told Alabama’s probate judges six months later that they were still bound by a state court order last year to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.
“Beyond question, at the time he issued the Jan. 6, 2016, order, Chief Justice Roy Moore knew about Obergefell and its clear holding that the United States Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry,” the court wrote in the unanimous decision.
They said Moore also flouted a federal judge’s order that enjoined the judges from enforcing Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban after the US Supreme Court’s decision.
The 50-page decision indicated that a majority of justices wanted to completely remove Moore, not just suspend him without pay, but they lacked unanimous agreement.
Moore told reporters in a telephone interview that he was shocked by the decision.
“I think it’s clear it was politically motivated,” he said.
In a separate statement, Moore called his removal “a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as chief justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda.”
With Moore’s punishment, leaders of two of Alabama’s three branches of government have been removed for ethics violations this year, and a third is possible. The Alabama House speaker was removed this summer. A legislative committee is weighing whether Alabama Governor Robert Bentley should be impeached over a scandal involving a top aide.
The president of the civil rights organization that filed complaints against Moore in 2003 and this year praised the decision as a victory for the state.
“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It’s something that he never seemed to understand,” Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen said. “My parting words are: Good riddance to the ayatollah of Alabama.”
Moore’s attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, called it a “miscarriage of justice” and said they would appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
“The rule of law should trump political agendas. Sadly, today that is not the case. What this decision tells us today is that Montgomery has a long way to go to weed out abuse of political power and restore the rule of law,” said Staver, who also represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Moore, 69, had already been suspended from the bench since May, when the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission accused him of violating judicial ethics. By the end of his term in 2019, he will be beyond the age limit of 70 for judges, unless voters raise the limit next month.
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