It's Time for Justice Roy Moore to Go

Judge Roy Moore, former Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of Alabama, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on
Judge Roy Moore, former Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of Alabama, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 8, 2004, in Washington. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has ignored the law, rejected the U.S. Constitution, and flouted the oath by which he swore to abide. But I don't think Roy Moore cares.

Following the ruling by a federal district judge that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Processes Clauses of the 14th Amendment, Moore took public action -- not as a private citizen, but as Alabama's leading judge. On Supreme Court of Alabama letterhead, Moore sent a letter to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley on January 27th and instructed him that marriage is beyond the reach of the Constitution of the United States, advising the governor to ignore federal courts and their so-called "judicial tyranny." He followed his letter to the governor by telling the press that a confrontation was imminent if the federal court's order was enforced. In one swift stroke, Moore violated judicial canon and flagrantly ignored the duties of his office.

Even after a clarifying letter from that same judge who ruled the ban unconstitutional, Moore doubled down. He explicitly urged probate judges to ignore the law and refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying that the federal court lacked the authority to make these decisions.

This isn't Chief Justice Moore's first rodeo. A decade ago, he ignored a federal court order requiring the removal of a statue of the Ten Commandments from the State Judicial Building. For this offense, he was removed by the State Supreme Court in 2003. "[T]he Oath taken by Chief Justice Moore commands him to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions," read the opinion removing him. "In the event of a conflict between the constitutions of Alabama and the United States, the Constitution of the United States must prevail."

In short, Roy Moore was wrong then, and he's wrong again today. That's why the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is proud to support the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in their ethics complaint seeking Moore's removal.

Because what's clear today is Roy Moore doesn't care about the law. Roy Moore doesn't care about the Constitution. Roy Moore cares mostly about Roy Moore and his particular set of deeply-felt personal beliefs. His particular brand of demagoguery is not based in a failure to understand the laws he is duty bound to uphold, but in an outright refusal to do so. That's not a Chief Justice; that's an ideologue. An ideologue has his place -- in the opinion pages of the newspaper or on morning talk shows on cable news -- but he should not be Alabama's most senior jurist.

If Roy Moore isn't prepared to uphold the law, than perhaps the role of Chief Justice isn't right for him. And if he doesn't recognize that, then perhaps others should recognize it for him and remove him from office. The Court has lots of room for different legal thinkers, but it has no place for those who refuse to think about the law.

Chad Griffin is the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.