Alabama Courthouse

An Open Letter To Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

On Monday, Alabama’s Supreme Court Justice, Roy Moore, ordered state judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Alabama in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows such licenses.

Dear Honorable Chief Justice:

As a reminder: first and foremost you are a judge – you are neither a Pontiff nor a Potentate.  You do not rule by edict, executive order, fatwa, or diktat.  Your job is to decide cases that come before you.  Sometimes you can rule on a petition alone, but mostly you can only cast one vote on cases that are within the jurisdiction of your court and that have been briefed and argued by competent lawyers.  Most importantly, you have no jurisdiction to overrule an order of a federal district court, much less the United States Supreme Court.

Our United States Supreme Court said: No stay is to be imposed on same-sex marriages in your state.  That is what they said.  You don’t have to like it, but you have no personal power to change it.  You acted beyond the law – outside the law – in defiance of the law, when you “ordered” probate judges in your state to refuse to grant marriage licenses.  At a minimum, you sowed confusion, created chaos, and may well have contributed to the denial of a constitutional right.  By doing so, you acted with contempt for our legal system and could be held in contempt by a United States District Court.  You might even be, once again, removed from the high office you hold.

Your actions have consequences:  you, who are sworn to uphold the United States Constitution as well as Alabama’s, are not free to be a judicial partisan.  A common thief steals mere money or property.  Your actions are far more serious, as you display arrogant disregard for the lawful processes you are sworn to honor; by doing so, you breed contempt in the body politic for the rule of law.  Your “order” attempts to steal a core value: respect for the rule of law.

The ruling which you defy has put in place a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  You, of all people, should know that any deprivation of a constitutional right, for however short a time, constitutes irreparable harm.  Our U. S. Supreme Court resoundingly acted to prevent that harm.  A stay is not appropriate where the petitioner cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success.  By refusing the stay, our federal Supreme Court has spoken; their ruling implies that, at this stage, a majority found a stay inappropriate.  No state court judge is empowered to overrule that decision.

So, with all due respect, your Honor, I request on behalf of all those who hold dear our freedom from dictatorship, our respect for the rule of law, and our freedom from bigotry, express or implied, that you publicly rescind your unlawful “order” and remove the dilemma you have imposed on the judges of your probate courts: a dilemma that requires those judges to either honor the rule of law and issue marriage certificates, thereby defying your “order”, or join you in violating their oath of office to uphold the U. S. Constitution.


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