Voices from Roy Moore's Ethics Trial

Oct 11, 2016

Roy Moore is no longer serving as the Chief Justice of Alabama.

On September 30, a majority of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary decided to suspend Moore for the remainder of his six-year term as punishment for ethics violations. The charges relate to Moore’s role in the controversy over same-sex marriage in Alabama.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon has been following the Chief Justice’s case. He has this report on reactions to the trial and what may be coming next.

At Chief Justice Moore’s summary judgement hearing in August, supporters of traditional marriage outnumbered supporters of gay marriage by a wide margin. At the official trial, that scale flipped.

“This is the first time that this many equality groups have come together.”

That’s Ambrosia Starling, a drag queen and civil rights activist who has been a thorn in Roy Moore’s side from the beginning.

“Normally, before, you see one or two. But today, there must have been somewhere between seven and nine equality organizations that all joined forces to ensure that the LGBT community was fairly represented on the day of the trial.”

Moore and Starling have sparred since Moore was first charged with judicial ethics violations. He singled her out in countless speeches, calling her insane and a professed transvestite, and saying she’s behind the charge to remove him from office.

For the most part, Starling says she and others try to move past that rhetoric.

“I’m really proud to see how my community handled themselves with dignity and manners in the face of hatred and discrimination.”

Other members of the LGBT community on hand at the trial were some of the original litigants responsible for striking down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Cari Searcy remembers her and her wife Kim McKeand’s road to marriage equality.

“When our son was born in late 2005, he was born with a large hole in his heart. He was going to have to have open-heart surgery. It was during this time that I was told because I didn’t have legal paperwork stating that I was a parent, I couldn’t administer care to our son. And for me, as a parent, that was unacceptable.”

It took years, but Searcy chose her course of action.

“In 2014, we filed our federal lawsuit challenging the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage laws, because we knew that was the only way to get legal recognition for our son.”

Last January, federal judge Callie Granade ruled in Searcy’s favor. That ruling declared Alabama’s marriage laws were unconstitutional.

“What happened after that, we all know, Judge Moore kind of made it his personal mission to stand in the doorway of marriage equality here in Alabama. And we saw something happen here where people started to take a stand and say ‘You know what? This is good. This is good for Alabama, and Alabama is a better place when all of its citizens are equally protected under the law.’”

“When a leader says that hate is something we can endorse legally, that affects everyday lives of everyday Alabamians.”

That’s Eva Kendrick, Alabama state manager for the Human Rights Campaign.

“When people who would seek to harm LGBTQ people hear this, they can use that rhetoric as a justification. They can say that their words and their actions have been echoed in the highest court in Alabama.”

The court system disciplined Roy Moore for his actions and rhetoric, but Kendrick says the responsibility ultimately lies with Alabama’s voters.

“The challenge for us is how we move forward to elect officials who will stand up for all Alabamians, because these actions are unconscionable, and we cannot let discriminatory political officials dictate the future of our state as they have dictated its past.”

Richard Cohen agrees – he’s the President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization that filed the initial judicial ethics complaints against Moore.

“The people of Alabama deserve a Chief Justice who will uphold the law. Not a Chief Justice who will urge defiance of it."

At this point, Moore has been suspended without pay for the remainder of his six-year term in office. At the end of that term, in January 2019, state law says Moore will be too old to serve as Chief Justice.

But Roy Moore isn’t going quietly. His legal team has already filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Based upon the law, I’m absolutely confident that the JIC was wrong in issuing these charges and the judge didn’t do anything. When you look at the case and you look at the issues, you scratch your head. ‘Why are we even here?’ We should not be here.”

That’s Moore’s lead defense attorney Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel in a press conference after the trial. The JIC stands for Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission which charged and prosecuted Moore. Full arguments haven’t been released, but Staver says he plans to challenge several aspects of the court’s decision, including whether they even have the power to review administrative orders like the one Moore was convicted and suspended for issuing.

Moore’s appeal will be heard by the remainder of the Alabama Supreme Court. Staver wants the eight remaining justices to all recuse themselves and a new panel of judges to be appointed to hear the case.

However the appeal plays out, one thing is for sure: We haven’t heard the last from Roy Moore yet.