Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended for the rest of his term in office over his January order instructing probate judges and clerks not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite the Supreme Court's ruling last July affirming the right to same-sex marriage.
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found Moore guilty on six charges, including that he disregarded the ruling of a U.S. District Court and that he encouraged the state's 68 probate judges to violate the state judicial ethics code. The suspension will be effective through the end of Moore's term, which was due to finish in 2018, effectively removing him from office.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission filed the complaint against Moore in May this year:
"We find that, when coupled with the intentional omission of binding federal authority, the clear purpose of the January, 6, 2016 order was to order and direct the probate judges … to stop complying with binding federal law," the Court of the Judiciary's nine judges, lead by Chief Judge Michael Joiner, wrote in their decision:
Moore argued that his order was him providing advice to address confusion among probate judges and clerks over whether they should issue same-sex marriage licenses following the SCOTUS decision:
The directive he sent out in January refers to an Alabama Supreme Court decision from March 2015 that upheld the state's same-sex marriage ban, laid out in the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act. It refers to an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year that found that the SCOTUS decision only explicitly struck down anti-marriage equality laws in a handful of states: Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Moore wrote:
That's an argument the Judicial Court called intentionally misleading:
This is the second time Moore is facing ethics charges over his actions as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice: In 2003, he was removed from the office after refusing to take down a 2.6-ton stone monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court Building. He was elected chief justice again in 2012.
Today's trial is certainly not the last we'll hear of Moore: in recent months, local commentators have speculated that he could be gearing up to run for governor in 2018. If that's the case, today's verdict could be seen as a badge of honor among conservative voters.