MONTGOMERY, Ala.—With Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore set to stand trial on charges he defied federal court rulings on same-sex marriage, a legal adviser to Alabama Baptists’ public policy auxiliary has called the allegations against him unmerited.
At issue in Moore’s case is a Jan. 6 administrative order in which he stated Alabama’s 68 probate judges had “a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage licenses contrary to” the state’s ban on same-sex marriage until the Alabama Supreme Court clarified the relationship between state law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) alleges in a 293-page complaint that Moore “failed to respect and comply with the law,” citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling among other cases.
The JIC seeks to have Moore, a Southern Baptist, removed from office.
On Aug. 8, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, a state panel that disciplines judges, denied both a motion from the JIC to remove Moore from office immediately and a motion by Moore to dismiss the complaint. A trial is set for Sept. 28, when a nine-judge panel will decide whether Moore violated judicial ethics and, if so, what penalty to impose.
Eric Johnston, an attorney who advises the Alabama Citizens Action Program, an auxiliary of the Alabama Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press, “By and large, most people in Alabama would agree with Moore on his position. I think it’s real clear that the marriage issue and his stand on it is what brought this (complaint) on. It’s almost like it’s vengeance by those that won the marriage issue in Alabama.”
If Moore is removed from office, it will be his second time to face that penalty.
After being elected chief justice for the first time in 2000, he was removed from office in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was elected chief justice for a second time in 2012 but, according to a state constitutional provision, is serving an automatic suspension from the bench pending the outcome of his case.
Even if Moore, 69, remains in office, he will be ineligible for reelection in 2018 because of a state law precluding the election of circuit, appellate and Supreme Court judges over age 70. (BP)