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Alabama chief justice pushes for Federal Marriage Amendment

Marriage equality

Alabama state sealCourts across the United States may be trending towards increasing recognition of LGBT individuals’ equality and liberty rights, but one jurist thinks those judges are doing things all wrong–and is hoping to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit them from doing so.  The AP reports:

Alabama’s chief justice, known on the national stage for fighting to display the Ten Commandments in a judicial building, is jumping into the gay marriage debate with his push for a states-led constitutional amendment defining the institution as a union between one man and one woman.

“The moral foundation of our country is under attack,” Chief Justice Roy Moore said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He mailed letters Wednesday to all 50 governors urging them to get their legislatures to call for a convention to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying the only union recognized by state and federal governments is “the union of one man and one woman.” He also is setting up a website to rally public support.

Moore said the only way to stop judges who are finding new rights for gay unions is with a state-initiated constitutional amendment. “Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law,” Moore said.

Bills proposing the addition of a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) to the U.S. Constitution have been introduced in many past Congresses, although all have failed to gain the 2/3 margin of support in both houses necessary to advance to the next step.  If a proposed amendment does garner that support, 3/4 of the states must approve the amendment for it to become a part of the Constitution.

Because he doesn’t believe another FMA will be filed by legislators this year, Chief Justice Moore wants to take the alternate path to ratification, in which 2/3 of state legislatures demand that Congress convene what is known as an Article V Convention.  Such a convention has never happened in the history of the United States, but Moore told the AP, “I think the time is ripe for that to happen with the political atmosphere in Congress. They can’t get along or agree on anything.”

The math is stacked against Moore–he would need the support of 34 state legislatures, and with 17 states having already legalized marriage equality, at least one of those states would have to support a federal constitutional amendment in direct opposition to its own public policy.

As the AP points out, Moore enjoyed a bit of infamy in the early 2000s due to a monument he erected at the state judicial building:

When Moore was elected in 2000, he placed a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building. A federal judge ruled that it had to be moved. Moore refused, and a state judicial court kicked him out of office in 2003 for disobeying the court order. Moore became known as “Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge” as he traveled the country speaking to churches and conservative groups. Alabama voters re-elected him in 2012. He has not tried to bring the monument back.

Even though it’s unusual (and perhaps somewhat unethical) for a state judge to speak out on matters of federal policy, Chief Justice Moore pointed to the Alabama’s own constitutional amendment banning marriage equality to justify his actions.  “Basically, I’m upholding the law,” he told the AP.


  • 1. Lymis  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:11 am

    ”Basically, I’m upholding the law,” he told the AP.

    Except that the law is pretty clearly unconstitutional, which means that upholding it is illegitimate. SCOTUS needs to make that clear sooner rather than later.

  • 2. Rick O.  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

    "Marvin K Mooney, would you please go now." Once again we can wistfully reflect that maybe preserving the Union wasn't an entirely good thing. However, isn't this still in the Republican platform?

  • 3. JimT  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

    In 2003 he was removed out of judicial office for violating the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics because of his defiance in not removing a Ten Commandments granite monument from the front of a courthouse. “In his 2005 autobiography So Help Me God, Moore said "It's about whether or not you can acknowledge God as a source of our law and our liberty. … . Judicial restraint gave way to judicial tyranny, and a new law reigned — the rule of man.”

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Actually, the block of granite was inside the rotunda of the building, not in front of it.

  • 5. Keith  |  February 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Whether outside or inside, putting up religious monuments is considered unconstitutional. Our founding fathers constitutionally mandated the separation of church and state.

  • 6. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 8, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    If the property is public, yes it would be unConstitutional.

    If the property is private land, the monument would be Constitutional.

    By attempting to place the monument inside the rotunda of the building, Judge Moore was making a blatant attempt to put the monument in public space, which is unConstitutional.

    And I know all about the founding fathers separating church and state. It was done in Maryland province in the 1630s when the colony was originally colonized. with the state capitol located in St. Mary's City (where some of my paternal ancestors lived, as Protestants) and in my (half-)sister's ancestry (many of her paternal ancestors were driven out of Europe (Switzerland into Germany, then Holland), because of religious bigotry, both Catholic and Protestant, even though her ancestors were 'Nicene Creed' Protestants.

  • 7. Walter  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Moore is an old-school demagogue. He may go over big in Alabama but that's about it.

  • 8. Steve  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:53 am

    He also called for the execution of gays and lesbians in a case that took away child custody from a lesbian mother and awarded it to her abusive ex-husband.

    As if it weren't obvious enough already that judicial elections are an insane idea.

  • 9. davep  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Wow. This guy is a sadistic bigot. There. I said it.

  • 10. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 7, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Roy Moore is their chief justice? He's certifiably unhinged. These are the rantings of someone who doesn't understand the Establishment Clause, nothing more. Let's make sure we get Oregon this year so our margin is even more undeniably airtight, if such a thing is possible.

  • 11. B&E  |  February 7, 2014 at 9:10 am

    While this is going in AL, we need some coverage as to what's happening in TN. Check this out… Another bill to discriminate making its way in TN.….

  • 12. davep  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Wow, that one is worded so broadly that it would allow things like landlords kicking tenants out if the landlord discovers that they had a civil union. It would allow people to deny housing, employment, a bank loan, a phone call from an emergency room to a partner at home, you name it, on the basis that allowing these actions might somehow be 'in furtherance of' a domestic partnership, civil union, or civil marriage. Pretty much any way someone might want to interfere with the lives of a couple would be allowed, if that couple has any kind of legal recognition of their relationship and the perpetrator shouts 'strongly held religious beliefs!'.

  • 13. Zack12  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

    And that is the whole point.
    Marriage equality might be coming but just like with the Jim Crow laws put in place after slavery, they will do everything they can to treat us as second class citizens.

  • 14. sfbob  |  February 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Your comparison is appropriate. Remember: Slaves were not permitted to marry. The first thing emancipation did was to grant them that right. Once Reconstruction was over, the South spent the next 80 years trying not to give African-Americans any additional rights.

  • 15. B&E  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

    This is my message to Senator Kelsey, the sponsor of the bill.

    "Dear Senator Kelsey,

    I am appalled at your attempt to write discrimination into Tennessee state law. My husband and I were legally married in CA in 2008. We are residents of the state of TN and our marriage is recognized under federal law. I fell that your proposed bill would invite severe harm to me and my partner of over 15 years. While I agree no religious institution should be required to solemnize a same sex marriage. Your bill over steps its bounds and provides anyone with any religious belief to deny goods and services to any one in a Federally recognized same sex marriage. Does that mean I can be refused health care, service in a restaurant, shopping at a grocery, etc? This does not pass the sniff test. I believe your bill is a result of animus towards the LGBT community. There is no room for this narrow minded view in the 21st century. I will take notice of how you vote on issues relating to TN and it’s residents. I hope you will consider removing such a hate and animus filed bill. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss this issue."

  • 16. Zack12  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    The thing is they refuse to answer those questions because they already know the answer to that.
    And that answer is yes.

  • 17. Rick O.  |  February 7, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Looking at Article 5 of the Constitution, it mentions "a Convention for proposing Amendments", PLURAL. I seem to remember being taught in high school that a Convention would be a wide open, lid-removed, can of worms NOT restricted to a single issue (and therefore would never happen).
    But Moore plays big a lot farther than Alabama, and the whole idea that the U.S. "is a Christian Nation" and must follow "natural" (read "god's", or sharia) law is EXTREMELY widespread. The courts (and politicians) have been entirely too nice toward religious infringement, which is 95% of the opposition to anything progressive. While there are a lot more atheists than there are LGBTs, the battle over separation of church and state is the heart of the culture war, and thefights over the "religious freedom" bills will be huge.Please note that gay rights have advanced in popular and legislative votes only after garnering some support from liberal, "god as a love concept" churches, but even they are largely unconcerned with reason and the Constitution whenever it suits them.

  • 18. Eric  |  February 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Such is the nature of superstition.

  • 19. Chris  |  February 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    We find allies in alot of Christian groups too: Episcopalians, liberal Catholics, United Church of Christ, etc.

    Alot of mormons are jumping on the Equality Bandwagon too!

    It would do well to welcome these people rather than write them off with everyone else who claims to be "christian".

  • 20. ebohlman  |  February 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    And it's particularly important to realize that the majority of religious believers aren't under the delusion that if separation of church and state were to be breached, their particular beliefs would be the ones that win. Neither Evangelicals nor Catholics, just to pick two fairly large groups, would be terribly happy with the other one holding a privileged position in law and government.

  • 21. Eric  |  February 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Please don't get me wrong, I welcome people of all faiths or none to the cause of liberty, whether they be Members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Satanic Temple, or Christian.

  • 22. Rick O.  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:19 am

    We have welcomed them, as they have welcomed us (& FYI I am former UCC member), and half my point is WE WOULD NOT WIN WITHOUT THEM, because the vast majority of Americans don' know and don't care about the establishment clause and the philosophical foundations of the Constitution. Even if they never go to church themselves, they (note Obama inviting Rick Warren to his inauguration) have swallowed hook line and sinker the canard that somehow you need to believe in a god to be a good, moral person. Over 200 years, every voice to the contrary, from Epicurus to Kant to Ingersoll, has been carefully cut from public – and most private – education. We'll see where the religious stand when they have to support a strictly non-religious legal position. I'm not optimistic; telling people Santa Clause does not exist or is irrelevant is not popular.

  • 23. Zack12  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Keep in mind Roy Moore helped get rid of Pennslyvania's anti-discrimnation laws and bragged about it afterwards.
    He is truly a vile evil man.

  • 24. Karlschneider  |  February 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I thought that crazy old bastard had croaked years ago…

  • 25. Richard Weatherwax  |  February 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

    This post makes me pause and think. Three friends and I will be driving to Florida this month and will pass through Alabama. This will be a dangerous place for us because one of my companions on the trip is a lesbian, and I'm an atheist. Neither of us will be well liked in Alabama. We better just drive straight through. No stopping.

  • 26. Eric  |  February 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    When my husband and I moved from Illinois to California, we drove around Utah.

  • 27. sfbob  |  February 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    This is why my partner and I continue to refuse invitations from his aunt and uncle to visit them in MS, the state next door with the same bad attitude.

  • 28. Zack12  |  February 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    It's the double edged sword. Choosing between family and safety. I would say that here in NY, my husband and I still feel nervous visiting some of my relatives in Allegany County even though they support us 100%.
    Allegany County is the red part of our state and to sum it up,it's one of the only places in NY Wendy Long and Carl Palindino (NOM favorites) won in their crushing losses for Senate and Governor respectively.
    In short, if you are looking for Alabama up north in NY,that is it.

  • 29. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    In Indiana, it's Kosciusko County. The county hasn't voted for the Democratic Presidential nominee since at least FDR. The voters in that county even voted for Goldwater over LBJ in 1964 because of the 'R' next to his name.

  • 30. bythesea  |  February 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I imagine you could stop yet somehow not be exposed as an atheist…

  • 31. Alan948  |  February 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Jacob wrote: "The math is stacked against Moore–he would need the support of 34 state legislatures"

    And that's just to call the convention, and the only power the convention has is to merely *propose* amendments. For the constitution to actually be amended still requires ratification by 38 states (3/4 of them), regardless of whether the amendment was proposed by congress or by a convention.

    "The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution, or on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress" (U.S. Constitution, Article V)

  • 32. davep  |  February 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Yup. And since far more than the remaining 1/4 of the states (12 states) already allows ssm, this ain't gonna happen. It's just more pandering to the right wing base by some guy trying to stir up some votes or publicity.

  • 33. Zack12  |  February 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    He needs votes but when a friend of mine was dealing with him in PA (in which he helped gut the protections for LGBT people there) he realized that Moore is simply an Christian version of the Taliban.
    He thinks his religious beliefs should be imposed on everyone else, whether they want it or not.

  • 34. Rich  |  February 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I think this push for a Constitutional Convention ( despite the overwhelming odds) is more sinister than that. While any intelligent homophobe would realize the futility of the endeavor, still there would be the very fact that they could pit state against state and citizens against each other but on a larger, grander stage. Perhaps for them "winning" now is simply to rile the masses and bring about a new civil war.

  • 35. Zack12  |  February 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    The scary thing is, that is exactly what some of them want. They think they can win it this time.

  • 36. KarlS  |  February 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Not to get too bellicose here, but I will promise you that there are a LOT of gay men who take the 2nd Amendment very seriously and have the hardware plus skills to use them very effectively if the shit hits the fan. Ain't gonna be no pushover if the fundy bigots decide to go postal.

  • 37. Zack12  |  February 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I certainly have no qualms if it comes to that.

  • 38. Fluffyskunk  |  February 9, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Women, too.

  • 39. KarlS  |  February 11, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Yes, you're right…I shouldn't have limited the comment to men…mea culpa!

  • 40. Michael  |  February 8, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Homophobia is not a "moral foundation." It's a sin like lying, stealing and murder. And this sinful amendment from militant anti-gay activist Moore is DOA.

  • 41. Eric Koszyk  |  February 8, 2014 at 3:37 am

    "Fun" Fact:

    Alabama is the only state where it is still technically illegal to sell vibrators and other devices that stimulate the "human genital organs for any thing of pecuniary value". The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals to an 11th Circuit ruling. Some observers believed that this showed a shift to the right following Lawrence V Texas.

    "Sherri Williams, an adult novelty dealer, and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the statute on constitutional grounds. They argued that the precedent of Lawrence v Texas, finding a right to engage in consensual gay sex, also guaranteed a right to sell sex toys. After initially winning their case, Williams vs. Alabama, in Federal District Court, Williams lost appeals to the 11th Circuit. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case."

  • 42. JimT  |  February 8, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Some of those elected reps probably didn't want their wives pleasuring themselves with those vibrators and other devices.

  • 43. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    During the 1800s, many doctors would prescribe vibrators or other 'female pleasuring devices' (aka dildos) to women to 'overcome female hysteria' (which many thought most women suffered and needed to be controlled).

    Now, the ultra-religious (and many others) think of such devices to be 'products of the devil' used almost exclusively by 'homos'. (At the same time, they have no problem with the 'vacuum ejaculation devices' paid for by MediCare – 20 years ago, they screamed to high heaven about the devices sold as 'penis pumps'. Is there a discernible difference between 'vacuum ejaculation devices' and 'penis pumps'?)

  • 44. KarlS  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:13 am

    You gotta love a guy who insists on making and displaying a graven image of a set of immutable, divine instructions that begin with "make no graven image"…

  • 45. FYoung  |  February 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Not to mention the irony that one of the commandments is "Thou shalt not kill," which Alabama legislators and judges proudly violate.

    By the way, it's either the fifth, sixth or seventh commandment depending on which religion you believe in.

  • 46. KarlS  |  February 8, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Yes, "thou shalt not kill"……….and a little later on in 2 Kings 2:23 their loving god sends wild bears to kill 42 children for razzing an old priest because he was bald. Their god is not just goofy, it is a vicious monster.

  • 47. David in London  |  February 9, 2014 at 6:41 am

    And of course all the Caananites put to the sword because they happened to be in the place the Israelites wanted to be. We all know the (ridiculous) story about how Joshua sounded the trumpets and the walls of Jericho fell, but the little less known ending is that the entire town was then massacred including infant children (Joshua 6:20-21). So much for the Sixth and Tenth Commandments eh?

  • 48. Bob  |  February 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

    The Israelites were nothing more than a warrior tribe led by a megalomaniac, who synthesized existing fables into a backstory defining the tribe. They eventually massacred everyone then-living in their "promised land".

  • 49. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:59 am

    I hope Roy Moore lives long enough to see marriage equality in all 50 states, the striking down of DOMA Section 2, and passage of ENDA on a federal level.

  • 50. bythesea  |  February 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Agreed. Doesn't seem like the Universe letting him stick around for another 4-6 years is so much to ask.

  • 51. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 9, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Indeed…he's 66, should be a slam-dunk.

  • 52. Bill  |  February 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Richard- I don’t think you and you friends are likely to be bashed in Alabama. Please consider that there are legions of us at work not just here in the Deep South- but all across the Red States. Don’t fall into the mindset of equality states vs non-equality states- that’s the trap they are setting for you. Instead, keep calm and motor on. And when you stop in Alabama I’m sure you’ll meet some nice folks. During the Katrina Exodus, a self-professed Christian woman in Northern Alabama came up to me at a gas pump, hugged me, prayed over me, and gave me money for gas. Bottom line is we’re all in this together.

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  • 54. MNBOB  |  February 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    This is an activist judge. Point to this article every time someone claims a certain liberal leaning judge is labeled "activist."

  • 55. Equality On TrialAlabama &hellip  |  March 26, 2014 at 9:33 am

    […] Emeritus of the organization, and his wife Kayla Moore is the current president. Roy Moore has recently pushed for a federal Constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from […]

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