Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore [official website] was suspended Friday after being charged with violating ethical rules. The Judicial Inquiry Commission accused [complaint] Moore of failing to act impartially and refusing to follow the law when he ordered [order] probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses following the US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges [opinion, PDF], which struck down same-sex marriage bans. Moore argued that the Supreme Court ruling only applied to the plaintiff in the case, and probate judges in Alabama had not been ordered to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The commission stated that Moore is bound by the Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution and has violated the law. This is the second time Moore has been removed from office after refusing to adhere to a federal court order in 2003.
Same-sex marriage and adoption rights remain in a state of legal uncertainty despite the Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] last June that states must allow same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. In March the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed petitions [JURIST report] that sought a ruling declaring the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage valid. Moore had instructed state judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses [JURIST report] in January. The Alabama Supreme Court had ruled in March 2015 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was legal, and Moore’s order stated that ruling remained in effect despite the Supreme Court finding such bans unconstitutional. Moore’s order had caused confusion among probate judges, with some defying the order and issuing same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] licenses.