Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has called on state judges to ignore a District Court ruling determining that the state's gay marriage ban is illegal, triggering what may be a final fight against gay marriage before the Supreme Court likely makes a ruling in favor of it later this year.
"He's a combative guy, no doubt about it," Bill Stewart, a professor emeritus at the University of Alabama and the state's leading political expert, told Politico
. "He likes to get into scraps with those who oppose his views."
Politico describes Moore as one of the "Christian right's greatest heroes" known for taking stands according to what he believes are God's law, above what the Constitution might allow.
On Sunday night, Moore ordered state probate court judges
not to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of the District Court's ruling. As a result, many have refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples and the matter that has triggered a federal court hearing on Thursday.
"Moore has made a career portraying himself as a crusader for God's law, a Daniel tossed in with the lions of a sinful society," Politico said. "He has proved he is not afraid to fight to the bitter end in furtherance of his beliefs."
In 1995, Moore rose to notoriety after he defied a state judge who ordered him to remove from his county courtroom a wooden plaque quoting the Ten Commandments. He then commissioned a 5,300-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments and had it installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building.
A lawsuit was brought against him in 2003 to remove the monument but Moore refused even after a federal appellate court ruled against him. He was later removed from office over the affair.
But, nearly 12 years later, he was voted back into the chief justice post, giving him the platform he has today to oppose gay marriage.
"He is more interested in being high priest than he is chief justice," Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center which was part of the earlier battle against Moore's stand on the Ten Commandments, told Politico. "He sees it as his mission to recognize the supremacy of biblical law in Alabama."
Politico said that the result of Thursday's federal hearing could once again see Moore lose his job, and may be one of the nation's final showdowns over gay marriage.
But Moore appears determined not to go down without a fight, saying on "Good Morning America" this week: "Do they stop with one man and one man or one woman and one woman? Or do they go to multiple marriages? Or do they go to marriages between men and their daughters and women and their sons?" Politico reported.
After U.S. District Judge Callie Granade's ruling late in January paved the way for Alabama to become the 37th state to allow same-sex weddings, Moore penned a letter to the governor questioning Grande's legal authority.
"We must act to oppose such tyranny!" Moore said in a Jan. 27 letter to Gov. Robert Bentley. "Our State Constitution and our morality are under attack by a federal court decision that has no basis in the Constitution of the United States. Nothing in the United States Constitution grants to the federal government the authority to desecrate the institution of marriage."
Both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined requests by the state to block enforcement of Granade's order until the issue is ruled on by the high court in June.
Critics say Moore does not have the authority to dictate how state officials will issue licenses but Moore's office sees it differently, saying that until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter, a district judge's opinion does not carry weight in Alabama.
"State courts are not bound by the opinions of lower federal courts," Moore wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to the association of probate court judges, according to Politico.
"Furthermore nothing in the orders of Judge Granade requires Alabama's Probate judges to issue marriage licenses that are illegal in Alabama."
At Thursday's hearing, Granade is expected to order full compliance with the ruling to allow gay marriage.
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