Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore Has Outdone Himself — Again
He’s outdone himself, which was hard to do.
In a brazen and unprecedented political move, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court — who was reelected a year ago after being removed from the bench in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom — inserted himself into the fight for the freedom to marry.
Last week, Chief Justice Moore sent letters to the governors of all 50 states urging them to ask their state legislators to call for a constitutional convention in order to amend the U.S. Constitution. His proposed amendment would strip away the ability of any government anywhere in the United States to recognize the marriage (or “any other union”) other than "the union of one man and one woman."
In an interview with the Associated Press, Chief Justice Moore said that "the moral foundation of our country is under attack" and that the "Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law." While Moore has frequently advocated for state’s rights over the power of the federal government, in this context, he has no qualms about “warping the law” with a hypocritical effort to strip away the power of states far outside his jurisdiction to protect their own citizens and their relationships.
Of course, Chief Justice Moore’s views on marriage are well known. We’ve even heard the virulently homophobic language he uses to express them before. Moore has even managed to work his in anti-LGBT demagoguery into a legal decision. In 2002, Moore cited scripture in a judicial opinion in a child custody case that shockingly referred to lesbian parents as “immoral,” “detestable,” “an inherent evil,” and “inherently destructive to the natural order of society.”
His removal from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 did not chasten the jurist. In 2011, Moore journeyed to Iowa to “urge” the adoption of a state marriage amendment, and applaud the people of Iowa for voting out the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of Lambda Legal’s marriage equality case in the state.
Then in 2012, after announcing that he would seek to return to the Court, Moore told those attending his campaign rally:
We can't keep disparaging our military and promoting things like same-sex marriage, L-G-B-T. To hear the President of the United States say that we are promoting L-G-B-T. Let's think about what that is: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered right... Same-sex marriage will be the ultimate destruction of our country because it destroys the very foundation upon which this nation is based.
Even given that track record, Justice Moore’s latest salvo is beyond shocking — it is outrageous. He is the highest ranking member of the judiciary in the state of Alabama, and is charged with faithfully applying the law. Society expects, and our Constitution requires, that judges, including and perhaps most importantly chief justices, maintain the dignity of the office and treat all litigants with respect.
Because judges safeguard our cherished rights and liberties, it is vital that they exercise restraint, maintain neutrality, and decide actual “cases and controversies” involving real litigants. In so doing, a judge must consider the facts, and the legal and Constitutional arguments, with an open and unbiased disposition — avoiding pre-judgment.
Integrity and impartiality are bedrock principles of our judicial system and they are embedded in the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. However, given his extensive history of blaming LGBT people for the “destruction of American society,” it gives us good reason to question whether LGBT litigants will, or even can, receive a fair hearing in his courtroom, regardless of what the law says or what evidence is presented.
Throughout our nation’s history, the courts have preserved the rights of all citizens and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws. When the courts strike down a particular law or amendment that unconstitutionally discriminates or deprives people of their constitutional rights, they are not “warping the law” they are doing their job.
Our democracy depends on fair courts. Fair courts require judges who are committed to administering equal access to justice for all — and who are dedicated to avoiding, rather than embracing, bias and partiality. Chief Justice Moore’s overtly political actions, and his openly disparaging statements about LGBT people, damage the integrity of the Alabama court system and undermine the public’s trust in the legitimacy of its rulings.
Learn more about Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Project.