Judicial holy war: Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore promises to defy any federal ruling in support of same-sex marriage and is urging Governor Robert Bentley and other state officials to join him in resisting the “tyranny” of federal courts overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Earlier this month, a federal district court ruled that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay citizens. In response, Moore sent a letter to the state’s governor urging defiance of the federal court’s decisions. In his letter to Governor Bentley, Moore said in part:
I am dismayed by those judges in our state who have stated they will recognize and unilaterally enforce a federal court decision which does not bind them. I would advise them that the issuance of such licenses would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama. Moreover, I note that “United States district court decisions are not controlling authority in this Court.”… As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.
… Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.
In his letter Moore also referenced prior rulings from the Supreme Court of Alabama, rulings from 1870 and 1904, that called marriage a “divine institution” and a “sacred relation.”
Immediately after the release of Moore’s letter Governor Bentley, a Republican, issued a statement declaring his support for Alabama’s ban on gay marriage, saying in part:
The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman. As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday’s ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.
Ronald Krotoszynski, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alabama School of Law, said Moore’s threats carry little legal weight, noting federal constitutional law trumps that of states:
There is no credible legal argument that an order from a federal judge with jurisdiction over a matter isn’t binding on a state government.
Moore has a reputation as a Christian extremist with little respect for the federal government or the U.S. Constitution. In 2003, as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building despite orders to do so from a federal judge. On November 13, 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously removed Moore from his post as Chief Justice. However, he was re-installed in office in January, 2013.
Last May, in an appalling display of constitutional ignorance, Moore declared that the First Amendment only applied to Christians while speaking to a pro-life group.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans later this year.