Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, famous for having lost his seat on the court in 2003 when he defied a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, has been sanctioned yet again by the state’s Court of the Judiciary, which ordered today that Moore be suspended without pay for the remainder of his term in office, this time for defying federal court decisions on marriage equality.
The Court of the Judiciary’s ruling is a brutal smackdown of the attempts by Moore and his attorney, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, to justify the chief justice’s efforts to stop marriage equality from taking effect in his state.
The court’s judges make clear in the ruling that their decision on Moore’s case has nothing to do with their opinions about the Obergefell ruling, which they note “some members of this court did not personally agree with or think was well reasoned.”
However, they reject Moore’s recent attempt to claim that his January order requiring state probate judges to defy Obergefell and refrain from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was nothing more than a “status update” on the law. In fact, they note that a press release from Staver himself the day the order was issued completely contradicts that claim:
Chief Justice Moore’s arguments that his actions and words mean something other than what they clearly express is not a new strategy. In 2003, this court’s order removing Chief Justice Moore quoted the following testimony from him before the [Judicial Inquiry Commission]:
“I did what I did because I upheld my oath. And that’s what I did, so I have no apologies for it. I would do it again. I didn’t say I would defy the court order. I said I wouldn’t move the monument. And I didn’t move the monument, which you can take as you will.”
Just as Chief Justice Moore’s decision that he “wouldn’t move the monument” was, in fact, defiance of the federal court order binding him, a disinterested reasonable observer, fully informed of all the relevant facts, would conclude that the undeniable consequence of the January 6, 2016, order was to order and direct the probate judges to deny marriage licenses in direct defiance of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell and the Strawser injunction.
Indeed, to see that the January 6, 2016, order can be reasonably read as requiring defiance of the United States Supreme Court and the district court in Strawser, we need to look no further than a press release issued by Mat Staver—Chief Justice Moore’s own counsel in these proceedings and one of the counsel of record in API—that was issued the same day as the January 6, 2016, order. In that press release, which solely addressed the January 6, 2016 order, Staver asserted:
“In Alabama…state judiciaries…are standing up against the federal judiciary or any one [sic] else who wants to come up with some cockeyed view that somehow the Constitution now births some newfound notion of same-sex marriage.”
Chief Justice Moore’s contention that the only purpose and plausible reading of the January 6, 2016, order is that of a “status update” is entirely unconvincing.
In fact, in a public press release this morning after the ruling came down, Staver claimed again that Moore’s order was “merely a status report"and, ironically, accused the court of throwing “the rule of law out the window.” However, in an email to Liberty Counsel supporters, he declared, “Liberty Counsel upholds 'just' laws—and the moral law of God. In Alabama and across America, in state judiciaries and legislatures, Liberty Counsel's legal team is standing against the federal judiciary, resisting tyrannical rule, and upholding the moral law of God.”
UPDATE: Moore released a statement saying “This was 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.”