Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from his job and faces possible ouster for trying to block gay marriage despite a federal U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage throughout America.
This is the second time that the Christian conservative Republican is facing a backlash for his action. In 2003, he was removed from the same position he is holding now for his refusal to follow a federal court order directing him to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state's judicial building, The Guardian reports. He later regained his position after getting re-elected.
In the current case, the 69-year-old Moore is charged with abuse of office when he issued an administrative order to probate judges in January, telling them an Alabama court order and law banning same-sex marriages remained in effect despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming same-sex marriage six months earlier.
In a statement he issued right after his suspension, Moore said the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) did not have the authority to question the order he issued.
Moore criticised the AJIC for bowing to the wishes of gay and transgender people.
"The JIC has chosen to listen to people like ... a professed transvestite and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organisations which support their agenda," he said. "We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail."
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary—the same body that ousted him in 2003—will later decide whether Moore violated judicial ethics. If found guilty, he could be removed from office, once again.
The case against Moore was triggered by a lawsuit filed by two lesbians in 2013 against Gov. Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis. The lawsuit sought to overturn Alabama's marriage amendment after one of the women was denied from adopting the other woman's child, Christian News reports.
In January 2015, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled in favour of the women. This prompted Moore to send a memo to probate judges throughout the state, advising them that they are not required to issue "marriage" licences to same-sex couples, saying that Granade's ruling only applied to the two women.
Moore's letter sparked confusion in court, prompting one judge to ask the full Alabama Supreme Court for further guidance.
In March 2015, six of the nine judges of the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to the issuance of same-sex "marriage" licences in the state. Moore recused himself from the case.
However, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a judicial ethics complaint against Moore over his letter. The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign likewise submitted 28,000 petition signatures to the JIC calling for Moore's removal.
On Friday, the JIC announced that it had filed ethics charges against Moore as a result of the SPLC complaint, and suspended the chief justice while he faces a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.