Metro Weekly

Alabama chief justice urges judges to uphold same-sex marriage ban

Roy Moore - Credit: Alabama Supreme Court

Roy Moore – Credit: Alabama Supreme Court

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is continuing his crusade against federal court rulings striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, advising Alabama probate judges in a letter and memorandum that they are not required to issue marriage license to same-sex couples.

“I hope this memorandum will assist weary, beleaguered, and perplexed probate judges to unravel the meaning of the actions of the federal district court in Mobile, namely that the rulings in the marriage cases do not require you to issue marriage licenses that are illegal under Alabama law,” Moore wrote in the Feb. 3 memo. According to Moore, the advisory is part of his constitutional and statutory obligation to provide guidance to the state’s probate judges.

“I urge you to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution and the Constitution of the United States to the best of your ability, So Help You God!,” Moore’s letter states, as reported by AL.com.

Following two decisions by U.S. District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade striking down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban late last month, Moore penned a letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) urging the governor to continue to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. “Our State Constitution and our morality are under attack by a federal court decision that has no basis in the Constitution of the United States,” Moore wrote, accusing federal courts of imposing by judicial fiat same-sex marriage in states across the nation.

That letter led the South Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to file an ethics complaint against Moore last week with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama, which has the authority to recommend Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. SPLC submitted yet another ethics complaint Tuesday after Moore said during a radio interview that should the U.S. Supreme Court rule later this year that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, it would be a “very hard decision” whether or not he “could comply with an unlawful order of the United States Supreme Court.”

This isn’t the first time Moore’s questionable actions have led him to be targeted by SPLC. Following a complaint filed by the organization, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore as chief justice in 2003 after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. About a decade later, however, Moore ran for chief justice again and was reelected by Alabama voters in 2012.

Same-sex marriages are scheduled to begin in Alabama on Feb. 9 after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to extend the stay of Granade’s ruling. Alabama has appealed to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit, to extend the stay while the case is appealed.

However, the 11th Circuit also announced Wednesday that they will put same-sex marriage cases out of Alabama, Florida and any others than may be appealed on hold pending a ruling by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans later this year.

“Now that the 11th Circuit has refused to grant a stay, it is incumbent on the Judicial Inquiry Commission to move quickly so the state can avoid the confrontation with the federal courts that Justice Moore has been inviting,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen in a statement. 

Should the Supreme Court deny the extension of a stay and marriage equality arrives in Alabama on Monday, Moore has a message for the state’s probate judges: “Because, as demonstrated above, Alabama probate judges are not bound by Judge Granade’s orders in the Searcy and Strawser cases, they would in my view be acting in violation of their oaths to uphold the Alabama Constitution if they issued marriage licenses prohibited under Alabama law.”

Alabama Chief Justice Moore Letter to Probate Judges

Alabama Chief Justice Moore Memo to Probate Judges

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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