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In 2003, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court defied a court order and refused to take down a Ten Commandments display in the courthouse rotunda. As a result, he was disciplined and removed from the bench. He obtained vindication in 2012, however, when the people voted him back in as chief justice.
Moore is now back off the bench, this time for defiance of another court order — that of the U.S. Supreme Court. He is so far the only judge in the nation refusing to implement Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex "marriage."
The Sanctity of Marriage Amendment — passed overwhelmingly in 2006 by popular referendum, with 81 percent of the vote— amended the Alabama constitution to include the definition: "Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman." It further states that "marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state. ... No marriage license shall be issued in the State of Alabama to parties of the same sex."
The Alabama Marriage Protection Act, a state law enacted in 1998, contains similar language proscribing marriage only to a man and a woman.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage after couples in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee challenged their respective state bans on gay unions. Although some states assumed Obergefell automatically applied to every state, Chief Justice Moore argues this point remains unsettled, and that only those states directly involved in the Obergefell decision are bound by the Supreme Court ruling.
Quoting a federal appellate court in his administrative order, Moore wrote that "Obergefell directly invalidated only the laws of the four states in the Sixth Circuit."
After citing similar reasoning offered by another federal court, Moore stated: "The above cases reflect an elementary principle of federal jurisdiction: A judgment only binds the parties to the case before the court."
Now Moore is facing a judicial ethics investigation, and will likely be penalized and removed from the bench permanently.
Watch the panel discuss this case and its implications in "The Download—Going Against the Grain."