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Religious Tolerance logo

Recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT equality

Part 6:
Alabama: Chief Justice Moore of the Alabama
Supreme Court continues support for SSM ban.
Southern Poverty Law Center files complaint.

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. Also, "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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thumb down image2015-JAN-28: Roy S. Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, repeats support for the Alabama same-sex marriage ban:

Earlier that day, the Alabama Probate Judges Association decided to reverse its stand on marriage equality. They now agree that the District Court's ruling applies to all qualified same-sex couples in Alabama -- not just the two plaintiffs to the District Court case.

During an interview, Chief Justice Roy Moore reiterated his belief that the state's ban on marriage by same-sex couples is still valid.

Moore quoted a 1993 opinion by the former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and current Justice Clarence Thomas. They wrote:

"In our federal system, a state trial court's interpretation of federal law is no less authoritative than that of the federal court of appeals in whose circuit the trial court is located."

Moore said:

"We as state judges have the same right to interpret the constitution as do these federal judges. That's why we're not bound by their opinion. But if the [U.S.] Supreme Court rules, it's a different situation." 1

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is expected on same-sex marriage during late 2015-JUN or early JUL.

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thumb down image2015-JAN-28: Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) files ethics complaint against Chief Justice Roy S. Moore:

The SPLC's main role is to monitor hate groups across the U.S. However, over a decade ago, they filed a lawsuit against Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who was then head of Alabama's Supreme Court as he is now. He had placed a Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama judicial building in violation of the principle of separation of church and state which is implied by the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Following his refusal to carry out a federal court order by removing the monument, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from office on 2003-NOV-13. That court's ruling stated:

"... the oath taken by Chief Justice Moore commands him to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions. In the event of conflict between the constitutions of Alabama and the United States, the Constitution of the United States must prevail. The Supremacy Clause [in Article VI] of the United States Constitution provides that:

'This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding'."

"... Chief Justice Moore did not have the legal authority to decide whether the federal court order issued to him in his official capacity as the State's highest judicial officer should be obeyed; rather, he was constitutionally mandated to obey it. ..."

"This court unanimously concludes that Chief Justice Moore should be removed from the office of Chief Justice." 2

However, his intransigence proved to be popular with the pubic, because he was subsequently reelected to the office in 2012, where he remains today. 1

Earlier in 2015-JAN, Chief Justice Moore found himself in a similar conflict between two constitutions. His oath of office requires him to obey both the state and federal Constitutions. More than 40 federal courts during the previous 19 months had concluded that similar state bans of same-sex marriage violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A federal District Court in Alabama agreed. Meanwhile, the Alabama Constitution requires a ban of marriage by same-sex couples.

He issued a letter to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley stating that the SSM ban in the state Constitution and marriage statute was still valid.

On 2015-JAN-28, the SPLC once again initiated an action against Chief Justice Moore. They filed a judicial ethics complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama. SPLC president, Richard Cohen, said:

"Moore is once again wrapping himself in the Bible and thumbing his nose at the federal courts and federal law. As a private citizen, Moore is entitled to his views. But as the chief justice of Alabama, he has a responsibility to recognize the supremacy of federal law and to conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics." 2

The complaint states, in part:

"We write to lodge a complaint against Chief Justice Roy S. Moore relating to the January 27, 2015, letter he sent to Governor Robert Bentley and his related
public statements. ..."

" Specifically, Chief Justice Moore, writing on Supreme Court of Alabama letterhead, instructs Governor Bentley that:

  • The definition of marriage is biblical and therefore beyond the reach of the United States Constitution ...;

  • All contrary federal court orders to be 'specious' pretexts intended to bring about the 'destruction of that institution' ...;

  • Urges the Governor to join with him to 'oppose such tyranny' in order to preserve morality ...; '

  • Advises' Alabama judges that their issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples 'would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama' ...;

  • Notifies the public that he will continue to enforce Alabama’s marriage restrictions, regardless of any federal court order ...; and

  • Asks the Governor to join with him in defying 'the judicial tyranny' reflected in federal court orders regarding same-sex marriage....

In addition, Chief Justice Moore released the letter to the press and gave interviews to the media regarding the letter. In an interview with WSFA television, Moore states that 'forty-four federal courts and 22 states have bowed down to the tyranny of the federal government' but that 'Alabama isn’t doing that' and that 'we will have a confrontation' if the district court’s order is enforced." 3 [Formatting changed from the original]

The SPLC complaint lists many violations of Alabama's Canons of Judicial Ethics which it suggests that Chief Justice Moore committed:

  • Improper public comment on pending and impending proceedings.

  • Lack of faithfulness to the law and failure of professional competence.

  • Disrespect for the dignity of the Judiciary.

  • Undermining public confidence in the integrity of the Judiciary. 3

The complaint concludes:

"For all these reasons, we respectfully request that this Judicial Inquiry Commission investigate the allegations in this complaint and recommend that Chief Justice Moore face charges in the Court of the Judiciary." 3

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mike Cason, "Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore says federal judge's ruling on gay marriage not binding," Alabama Media Group, 2015-JAN-28, at:
  2. "In the matter of: Roy S. Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama," Alabama Court of the Judiciary, 2003-NOV-13, at:
  3. "SPLC files ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over pledge to defy federal law and enforce same-sex marriage ban." Southern Poverty Law Center, 2015-JAN-28, at:
  4. "Couple asks court to let ruling ending Alabama's gay marriage ban take effect ," Alabama Media Group, 2015-JAN-29, at:
  5. Kent Falulk, "Roy Moore's criticism of gay marriage ruling 'improper and unfair,' trial lawyers' group says," Alabama Media Group, 2015-JAN-29, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Alabama > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-JAN-29
Latest update: 2015-JAN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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