MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore stands accused of urging defiance against the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, but his lawyers argued Tuesday in a legal filing that the complaint is baseless and he never ordered state probate judges to refuse wedding licenses to gay couples.
The outspoken Republican jurist, who once lost his judicial post for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building, is suspended from the bench. He faces possible removal from office again over a January administrative order he sent probate judges.
His order reminded judges that a 2015 Alabama Supreme Court injunction to refuse same-sex marriage licenses remained in “full force and effect” even though the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges effectively legalized gay marriage six months earlier.
Moore’s attorneys asked a judicial panel to dismiss the ethics complaint against him brought by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. They wrote that Moore never told probate judges to refuse the licenses, but was correctly summarizing the status of a state injunction in answer to questions from probate judges.
“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 January 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.”
The chief justice was automatically suspended from the bench and could be removed permanently by the Court of the Judiciary.
Moore was removed from the office in 2003 over the Ten Commandments monument, but later ran for Supreme Court again and won. His attorneys rejected suggestions that Moore was again defying — or urging defiance— of the federal courts.