Last edited: January 03, 2005

Chief Justice Applauded, Condemned

Times Daily, February 23, 2002
219 W. Tennessee St., Florence, AL, 35631
Fax: 205-740-4700

By Dana Beyerle, Montgomery Bureau

MONTGOMERY—Local and national homosexual and religious groups Friday demanded Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s resignation because of a legal opinion in an adoption case involving a lesbian mother.

"Moore’s opinion could have been written by the Taliban," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which claims 500 members in Alabama.

"He has proven that he is a religious fanatic who can’t separate his personal beliefs from his judicial mandate to dispense fair and impartial justice."

Moore’s defender, Dean Young, executive director of the Christian Family Association, called those giving speeches outside the Alabama Judicial Building fringe groups who do not represent the average Alabama resident.

"What you are seeing is hostility toward a Christian judge and hostility toward Christianity," Young said of the protesters. "This group of people, this fringe group of people, is like a gnat on the rear end of an elephant."

A spokesman for Moore, Scott Barnett, said Moore would not resign.

"Chief Justice Moore has nothing do with any rally, and he ruled according to the law and I would encourage everyone to read the opinion in the entirety," Barnett said.

Moore is the Etowah County circuit judge who rose to prominence after opposing attempts to get him to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from his Gadsden courtroom. He was elected chief justice in 2000 and became involved in controversy again when he erected a 5,280-pound monument to the Ten Commandments in the Judicial Building under the cover of night.

On Feb. 15, Moore wrote a concurring opinion in a 9-0 decision that denied child custody to a lesbian who originally agreed to turn her children over to their father, then tried to reclaim them after moving to California.

Justice Gorman Houston, who wrote a unanimous opinion that was largely on procedural grounds, said the Court of Civil Appeals wrongly re-weighed evidence from a trial court that had originally given custody to the father. The mother did not meet the legal requirements to modify custody.

In his opinion, Moore wrote that homosexual conduct of a parent "creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient" to deny a parent custody.

"It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected," Moore wrote, citing state laws that prohibit homosexuality.

Moore wrote the state must protect families and has the "power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution."

"It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle," Moore wrote. It was the statement about "evil" and the reference to the power of the state to use capital punishment to protect children that drew about 120 people to Montgomery.

"Judge Moore’s prejudiced statements demonstrate that he is unable to render fair and impartial judgment," said Seth Killbourn, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian organization.

The Rev. Timothy Holder, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Birmingham, read a statement from the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.

He said it’s "dangerous to seem to characterize any group of human beings as inherently evil. Such statements, and others in the opinion, can lead to fear, prejudice, and violence that tear at the fabric of our life together," Holder said.

Moore’s opinion and the rally fell nearly three years to the day after a gay man, Billy Jack Gaither, was beaten to death north of Montgomery and his body burned because of his sexual preference.

A state Senate committee this week approved a bill that would make violence against homosexuals based on their sexual preference a hate crime. The bill must be passed by the full Senate and House and signed by the governor.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Moore believes the legal system is based on his religion.

"At a time in our national life when we struggle against terrorists who don’t hesitate to mix religion and politics and label all who disagree as infidels, it should be obvious why we separate church and state in America," Lynn wrote.

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