Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore defends his gay marriage ban memo

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Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is defending his January 2016 memo to probate judges regarding same-sex marriage.

Moore submitted an affidavit Tuesday explaining he was not defying the high court’s decision, but seeking to resolve any “confusion” among probate judges because of what he says were lingering questions about the impact of the federal decision.

On March 3, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Then on June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

“I believe it is time for us to make a decision in this case, one way or the other: to acquiesce in Obergefell and retreat from our March orders or to reject Obergefell and maintain our orders in place,” Moore wrote his fellow justices in September 2015, explaining it would be “very unfair” to leave “probate judges of this state to bear the stress of this battle alone with no guidance from us.”

Months later, in January 2016, Moore readdressed the issue, noting the Alabama Supreme Court had not lifted its March 3 ruling prohibiting probate judges from issuing licenses to gay couples. He said it’s up to the state court to decide what to do with that order following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Following his order, an ethics complaint was filed against him and he was immediately suspended from office pending investigation.

Moore could be permanently removed from his post, if the state’s Court of Judiciary concludes he violated judicial ethics by urging probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Earlier this month, the state’s Judicial Inquiry Committee (JIC) requested the Court of Judiciary to immediately remove Moore for abusing his office and has since accused Moore of playing “semantic gamesmanship” in attempting to justify the January memo.

The Court of the Judiciary will hear arguments Aug. 8.

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