Alabama chief justice suspended over gay marriage opposition

Alabama chief justice suspended over gay marriage opposition
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Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has been suspended for the remainder of his term after telling local judges they could refuse to allow same-sex couples to wed.

In a 50-page order issued Friday morning, Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary ruled Moore had violated the state’s canon of judicial ethics. The nine-member court voted unanimously to suspend him from the rest of his term, which expires in 2019.

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The lawsuit against Moore, a hard-line conservative, came after the chief justice issued an administrative order in January advising Alabama probate judges that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was still in effect despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against such bans.

Moore said the January order represented a status report to local judges, rather than an outright ban on issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed several complaints with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission over Moore’s public comments against same-sex marriage and his January order.

In its decision, the Court of the Judiciary said some of its members did not agree with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the opinion that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. But, they said, their role was not to relitigate the issue.

“This is not a case to review or to editorialize” about the Obergefell decision, the court wrote. Instead, the court found Moore had failed to uphold the independence of the judiciary and to respect and comply with the law and perform his duties impartially.

Gay rights groups hailed Friday’s decision as a victory.

“We are thrilled that justice has been done today and [Moore] will no longer be able to use the bench to discriminate against people he had taken an oath to protect,” said Eva Kendrick, Alabama state manager for the Human Rights Campaign.

Friday’s decision marks the second time Moore has been thrown off the state Supreme Court. In 2003, Moore was tossed after refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments in Alabama’s judicial building.

Nine years later, after a failed bid for governor, Moore won election to his old job on the state Supreme Court.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who is facing impeachment proceedings himself, will appoint a replacement to fill the remainder of Moore’s term.