According to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Upholding the Constitution Is “Judicial Tyranny”

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January 28, 2015
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Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

In two separate rulings, a federal judge in Alabama struck down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban, prompting a brazenly political and deeply misguided response from the Chief Justice of Alabama’s highest court.

Throwing judicial restraint and his duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution to the wind, Chief Justice Roy Moore sent a letter to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, citing scripture and promising to stand with him in defiance of the ruling.

“Today the destruction of that [marital] institution is upon us by federal courts using specious pretexts based on Equal Protection, Due Process, and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution. As of this date, 44 federal courts have imposed by judicial fiat same-sex marriages in 21 states of the Union, overturning the express will of the people in those states. If we are to preserve that reverent morality which is our source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement, then we must act to oppose such tyranny!”

Chief Justice Moore promises to “continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelming expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” and pledges to stand with the Governor “to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”

This isn’t the first time Chief Justice Moore has shown total disregard for a federal court ruling. Moore was removed from the bench in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom.

Nor is this the first time that Chief Justice Moore has tossed aside his duty to remain neutral and unbiased in favor of antigay politicking.

Take a look at Chief Justice Moore’s long history of disparaging LGBT people, both on and off the bench:

  • In 2002, Moore cited scripture in a judicial opinion in a child custody case that referred to lesbian parents as “immoral,” “detestable,” “an inherent evil,” and “inherently destructive to the natural order of society.” This prompted Lambda Legal to file an official complaint against Moore.
  • 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.
  • 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.”

  • In 2014, 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."

The people of Alabama deserve better. Society expects, and our Constitution requires, that judges maintain the dignity of the office and treat all litigants with respect. These bedrock principles of integrity and impartiality are embedded in the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, to which the Chief Justice is bound. Given his extensive track record of virulently homophobic rhetoric, it gives us good reason to question whether LGBT litigants will, or even can, receive a fair hearing in his courtroom.  

The state judiciary deserves better. 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 deserves better. Chief Justice Moore’s overtly political actions and his willingness to flout the rulings of the federal court in our constitutional system, show disrespect for the rule of law.

Find out how you can join Lambda Legal’s fight for fair and impartial state courts.