Last edited: February 14, 2005

Alabama Judge Defends Anti-Gay Remarks

Datalounge, March 4, 2002
Source: Southern Voice

By Mike Fleming

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore insisted last week he was only following established judicial precedent when he issued an official opinion calling homosexuality an "inherent evil" that makes gays "presumptively unfit" to raise children.

"I was quoting common law. This is a common law state," Moore said Feb. 20, according to the Associated Press. "I was just going by the law."

Moore is barred by law from discussing any Supreme Court decision in detail, but he briefly addressed the general issue as he left a budget hearing. Common law is the doctrine that judicial decisions are based on the way the law has been interpreted in the past.

Alabama conservatives also stepped up to defend Moore last week, as local and national gay groups continued to protest the chief justice’s remarks, made in a concurring opinion issued Feb. 15 in a lesbian mother’s custody case.

"In this age of political correctness, some people are going to condemn his outspokenness, but I’m certainly not," Alabama Republican Party leader Marty Connors told AP. "I think he’s right."

Connors and Alabama GOP executive director Tim Baer did not respond to requests for further comment on the official state party stance on the issue.

Meanwhile, the leader of Alabama’s Christian Family Association heckled a protest by pro-gay faith leaders before grabbing the microphone to denounce gays as "a fringe group" that is nothing more than "a gnat on the rear end of an elephant," according to the Birmingham News.

"It is an absolute shame to have people that are calling themselves men of God to stand up here and condone the homosexual lifestyle," Dean Young said, according to the newspaper.

He called homosexuality "a deviant, destructive lifestyle" and said pastors who condone it need to "need to get another job," the newspaper reported.

Religious, civil rights leaders denounce Moore

Young and a handful of other Moore supporters disrupted the Feb. 22 protest on the steps of the state judicial building that included some 50 ministers of various faiths, national gay politicos and a bulletin board wrapped in more than 200 fax statements against Moore, said Ken Baker, executive director of Equality Begins at Home of Central Alabama.

"The protest was a way to let the people of Alabama and the nation know that all people of faith don’t think the way Judge Roy Moore does," Baker said. "We needed to let the gay people here know that people outside the state care so they don’t feel as isolated. It was a chance for the truly fair-minded folks of Alabama to speak out and be heard."

The rally also included speeches by national gay leaders from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, Baker said.

The activists criticized remarks Moore made in a non-requisite concurring opinion filed with a unanimous Supreme Court decision against lesbian mother Dawn Huber, who is vying for custody of her children.

While the official decision—written by another justice—was framed in legal grounds not related to the mother’s sexual orientation, Moore’s opinion focused solely on that aspect of the case.

The 30-page opinion called homosexuality "detestable and abominable" and an "inherent evil" that goes against biblical scripture and Alabama law. Moore’s document specified that in Alabama, those who break the law are subject to "confinement and even execution. [The state] must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle." That remark led some activists to condemn Moore for inciting violence against gays.

"To call for the execution of people for who they are is to set American law and basic civil rights back at least 40 years," protest participant Laura Montgomery-Rutt, a representative of spiritual group Equal Partners in Faith, said in an interview.

"It’s ironic to me that this debacle is coming out of Montgomery, where the civil rights movement began and similar violence was condoned against African-Americans," said Montgomery-Rutt, also a member of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State. "It’s unacceptable and Roy Moore needs to be stopped."

Moore was only quoting the law and not condoning violence, Stephen Melchior, a Wyoming attorney who has represented Moore in legal battles, told the Associated Press.

"You’ve got to go out of your way, to just flat out lie, to say he wants to execute homosexuals," Melchior said, according to the AP.

Legal recourse

Along with last week’s protest, Moore’s comments have drawn two complaints with the state’s judicial office. After filing an official complaint Feb. 20 with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, attorneys with the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund disputed that Moore followed the law.

"It is important that all people of Alabama know they are entitled to a fair shake under the law," said Greg Nevins, staff attorney with Lambda’s Atlanta-based Southern Regional Office. "Judge Moore’s comments are clearly prejudiced and we believe that’s against the law. He clearly cannot judge fairly.

"We trust that the Judicial Commission will take their duties seriously, give the complaint a fair hearing and so will see that a violation of the law exists," Nevins said.

A separate but similar complaint against Moore was filed Feb. 18 by state Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery), a longtime civil rights supporter in the state.

"A judge is supposed to rule according to the laws based on the statutes set forth by the legislature and the state constitution," Holmes said. "But [Moore] has based his judgement on his personal and religious opinions, which is prohibited. Nowhere in Alabama law does it say that homosexuality or being gay or a lesbian is evil. The evidence will show that he needs to be removed from office."

The Judicial Inquiry Commission has 10 days to serve copies of the complaints to Moore and to acknowledge receipt to the complainants. The nine-member panel of judges, attorneys and laypersons then has 42 days to decide whether an investigation is necessary; if no decision is made, the complaint is null and void, said Margaret Childers, executive director of the commission.

"If they decide to investigate, the judge will be immediately notified and periodically updated on the process," Childers said. "The complainants will not be similarly notified unless the commission decides to bring charges in Judicial Court. The details of the investigation are completely confidential between the commission and the judge, and in fact we can’t even verify if a complaint has been received."

By law, the commission will never make a public statement about the investigation unless the judge requests it, Childers said. The hearing becomes public information if charges are filed and the case goes before the state Judicial Court, a special court outside the regular criminal and civil court systems.

Moore’s written statement that calls gays "abhorrent" constitutes evidence that he cannot impartially perform his duties and should step down or be unseated, Nevins said.

A spokesperson from Moore’s office told the AP that the judge has no intention of stepping down.

Ala. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Judicial Building
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36104-3741

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