WHEREAS, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has Completely Lost the Public’s Trust and is Not Fit to Serve

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February 9, 2015
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Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

This blog post was co-written by Lambda Legal's Fair Courts Project Manager, Eric Lesh, and Senior Attorney Beth Littrell.

Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court — who was reelected in 2012 after being removed from the bench in 2003 for defying a federal court—has done it again, once again abandoning his ethical obligations and demonstrating a total disregard for the rule of law. Last night, as happy same-sex couples made final preparations to head to courthouses all across Alabama, Chief Justice Moore issued a late night order proporting to direct all probate judges to violate the U.S. Constitution by refusing to issue licenses in accordance with a federal court ruling. Moore wrote:

WHEREAS, pursuant to § 12-2-30(b)(7), Ala. Code1975, the Chief Justice is authorized and empowered to "take affirmative and appropriate action to correct or alleviate any condition or situation adversely affecting the administration of justice within the state… Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.”

Moore issued this outrageous order knowing that he does not have the authority to unilaterally direct the activities of probate judges.  In 1998, Moore was the circuit judge of Etowah County and a party to a lawsuit in which the Alabama Supreme Court reiterated that the  Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court cannot unilaterally direct the activities of inferior judges.  

Then just this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt the freedom to marry in Alabama, sending a clear message that Judge Ginny Granade’s ruling, which struck down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban, would remain in effect.

As a result, Justice Moore’s obstinate grandstanding has been unmasked as not only illegitimate, but also largely ineffective, and we this morning are seeing picture after picture of loving couples celebrating their unions and exercising their constitutional rights.

Nevertheless, we have lost all patience. Chief Justice Moore’s enthusiasm for flouting the rulings of our federal courts and his willingness to cast aside the principles embedded in the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics can no longer be tolerated.

Moore’s long history of overtly political actions and his disparaging statements about LGBT people contravene his ethical obligations, causing significant damage to the integrity of the Alabama court system and the legitimacy of its rulings. So...

WHEREAS, 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”; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, he was removed from his post for refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a monument of the 10 Commandments from his courtroom; and

WHEREAS, 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; and

WHEREAS, in 2012, Moore told those attending his campaign rally that allowing same-sex couples to marry would lead to “the ultimate destruction of society”; and

WHEREAS 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; and

WHEREAS in 2015, Moore, continued to flout the command of the federal judiciary by purporting to prohibit probate judges from issuing marriage licenses in accordance with the law.

NOW THEREFORE, Chief Justice Roy Moore has completely lost the public’s trust and is unfit to serve.

The people of Alabama deserve better from the head of their state judiciary. Society expects, and our Constitution requires, that judges maintain the dignity of the office and treat all litigants with respect. Judges must also follow the law. State-issued marriage licenses are a fundamental right that cannot simply be withdrawn at the whim of those with authority to issue them.

Judge Granade's clarification order warns that if a state official fails to follow her order, “procedures allow individuals to intervene as plaintiffs in pending actions, allow certification of plaintiff and defendant classes, allow issuance of successive preliminary injunctions, and allow successful plaintiffs to recover costs and attorney's fees.” 

If you experience problems in accessing a marriage license in Alabama, please contact the Lambda Legal Help Desk at (866) 542-8336 or by email.

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

Congratulations to the many happy couples in Alabama!