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Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Suspended for Ordering State Courts to Refuse Same Sex Marriages

Chief Justice Roy S. Moore is the same judge who was removed in 2003 for defying a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the state judicial building.
In this Feb. 9, 2015, file photo, Tori Sisson, left, and Shante Wolfe kiss after saying their marriage vows in Montgomery, Alabama. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

The chief justice of Alabama's supreme court could face removal from the bench for ordering state judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission — a judicial oversight body — filed a formal complaint overnight on Friday against Roy S. Moore, 69, alleging that he has "flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority."

Moore was suspended immediately following the complaint, and will face a hearing to determine if he should be permanently removed for violating the state's judicial ethics laws.


"We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail," Moore said in a statement.

Moore has long been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, and voices like his have grown louder since the Supreme Court's landmark decision last summer to give same-sex couples the right to marry — a triumph for gay rights advocates and a slap in the face of many religious conservatives.

Related: Let's Be a Bit More Understanding About Divorce, Says Pope, but Not Gay Marriage or Abortion

Moore issued an administrative order in January barring state judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, contrary to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges six months earlier that made same-sex marriage legal across the country. Moore argued that the Supreme Court's ruling only applied to the four states involved in the case that was before the court. The Judicial Inquiry Commission's complaint says Moore's view is not in step with the federal district and appellate courts with jurisdiction over Alabama, and is "contrary to clear and determined law about which there is no confusion or unsettled question."

Moore faces six charges, all involving violations of the state's canons of judicial ethics.

The Human Rights Campaign — the biggest gay rights organization in the US — lauded Moore's suspension.

"Roy Moore is an embarrassment to the state of Alabama," Eva Walton Kendrick, the manager of HRC's Alabama division said in a statement.

Moore, an army veteran who served in Vietnam, has championed conservativereligious causes in the past. He was first elected in 2000 to the Alabama Supreme Court, but was removed three years later after defying a federal order and refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the state judicial building.

He returned to the bench in 2012, on promises that he wouldn't overstep federal law.

"No official in Alabama has the right to ignore a federal court decision legalizing same-sex marriage," Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a statement in February. "Some zealots apparently believe they have the right to ignore laws they don't like. They may soon find that they are very much mistaken."

Reuters contributed to this report