The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, was suspended Friday without pay for the rest of his term.
The state’s Court of the Judiciary declared him guilty of showing “disregard for binding federal law” and not performing his duties as chief justice “impartially.”
In January, seven months after the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Moore issued an administrative order instructing state probate judges to enforce Alabama’s existing ban on same-sex marriage, saying they “have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect."
The Judicial Inquiry Commission filed a complaint against Moore, saying the order violated judicial ethics. The court agreed and said this administrative order was meant to “order and direct the probate judges, most of whom had never been admitted to practice law in Alabama, to stop complying with binding federal law.”
However, the court did not remove Moore from the bench because only a majority of its members voted for his removal as chief justice; a unanimous vote is required. Moore’s suspension was a unanimous decision.
Moore’s term was supposed to end in 2019, but because of his age, he will no longer be able to run for another judicial position.
Mat Staver, an attorney for Moore and the founder of the nonprofit organization The Liberty Counsel, said the suspension was “a miscarriage of justice.”
"The rule of law should trump political agendas. Sadly, today that is not the case," Staver said. ""To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the duration of his term is a miscarriage of justice and we will appeal this case to the Alabama Supreme Court. This case is far from over."
Moore himself said the court’s decision was “a politically motivated effort” by gay and transgender groups to remove him from the bench because of his open and vocal opposition to their “immoral agenda.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center praised the court’s ruling, saying the decision was “a great service” to the people of Alabama.
“He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” SPLC president Richard Cohen said, adding that Moore was elected to serve as a judge and not as a preacher.
This is the second time that Moore was removed as chief justice. The first was in 2003 when he refused to obey a judicial order to remove a Ten Commandments monument because it was unconstitutional and endorsed a particular religion or belief. Moore was reelected as chief justice in 2012.