Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should be removed from office for defying the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage, a lawyer for a disciplinary commission argued on Wednesday.
R. Ashby Pate, a lawyer for the Judicial Inquiry Commission, said marriage equality was settled law in all 50 states when Moore told Alabama’s 68 probate judges in January that they remained bound by his court’s order to refuse the licenses to same-sex couples.
A federal judge had already clarified this for Alabama’s judges, citing the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling in an injunction telling them to drop the state’s ban, Pate said.
“His order sowed confusion. It did not clear it up. He urged defiance, not compliance,” Pate told the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. “He ordered each and every subordinate probate judge to defy a federal injunction.”
The outspoken Republican jurist could be removed from office for the second time in 13 years if found to have violated the state’s canons of judicial ethics. He was ousted in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments statue from the state’s judicial building, but was later re-elected in a popular vote.
Testifying under oath before the court on Wednesday, Moore called the latest charges “ridiculous.”
He said his January memo simply provided a status update to judges who had questions because the Alabama Supreme Court had not acted to reverse the state ban, even after the federal rulings.
“I don’t encourage anyone to defy a federal court or state court order,” Moore said. “I gave them a status in the case, a status of the facts that these orders exist. That is all I did.”
Moore did acknowledge in a testy cross-examination, however, that he told probate judges to follow the very same state court order that a federal judge specifically said they could no longer enforce.
The nine-member court has 10 days to rule on whether Moore violated judicial ethics, and what punishment he should face if so. A decision to remove him from the bench must be unanimous.
Moore stands accused during a season of political upheaval Alabama. The house speaker was removed from office this summer for ethics violations, and a legislative committee will decide if evidence supports impeaching Gov. Robert Bentley after he was accused of having an affair with a top staffer.
Before the hearing began, rainbow flags and Christian music competed for attention outside.
“The truth is homosexuality is wrong,” said Donna Holman, who traveled 12 hours from Iowa and carried a sign saying “It’s not OK to be gay.
“Equal marriage is the law. Love will always win,” countered Madison Clark of Montgomery.