Chief Justice Roy Moore suspended for opposition to gay marriage licenses

A senior judge has been suspended over he told local judges not to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.

Roy Moore, Chief Justice in Alabama's Supreme Court, is an outspoken critic of same-sex marriages and is accused of violating the state's ethics laws by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission.

Moore faces charges before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary and a potential removal from office.

This is the second time Roy Moore goes before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. In 2003 he was removed from his office after he refused to remove a 10 Commandments monument he had erected.Reuters

The US Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that gay couples had the right to marry under the US constitution. After this decision, last year a federal judge ruled same-sex marriage was legal in Alabama.

Despite these two rulings, Moore issued an administrative order to state probate judges that they should not issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) filed a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission which then forwarded the case to the Court of the Judiciary.

A demonstrator holds a sign aloft during a protest outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama.Reuters

"Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority," read the complaint. "Moore knowingly ordered (probate judges) to commit violations...knowingly subjecting them to potential prosecution and removal from office."

Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC, said Moore had disgraced his office, according to

"He is such an egomaniac and such a religious zealot that he thinks he can ignore court orders with impunity," said Cohen. "For the sake of our state, he should be kicked out of office."

Moore said in a statement that the commission had no authority over administrative orders or the court's ability to prohibit probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. "We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail."

Moore alleged the US Supreme Court ruling was at odds with a decision in March 2015 by the Alabama Supreme Court that instructed probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The conflicting opinions had resulted in "confusion and uncertainty," Moore said, with many probate judges issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while others refused to do so.

This is not the first time Moore has faced charged before the Court of the Judiciary. In 2003, he was removed from office after a federal judge ruled he was placing himself above the law by refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state judicial building in Montgomery.