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Alabama Supreme Court upholds Chief Roy Moore’s suspension

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore lost his effort to regain his job on Wednesday as the Alabama Supreme Court upheld his suspension for urging defiance of federal rulings allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

The fiery jurist lashed out at Wednesday’s decision, saying he considers his lengthy suspension to be both illegal and a “clear disregard of the will of the people who elected me chief justice.”

“I have done my duty under the laws of this state to uphold the sanctity of marriage and the undeniable truth of God-ordained marriage of one man and one woman. Mere human judges have no authority to say otherwise,” Moore said.

Moore did not discount a potential run for another political office. When asked if he will add his name to the list of Republicans running for governor in 2018, or U.S. Senate this year, he said he will announce his plans for the future next week after discussions with his family.

Moore is the third Republican politician in Alabama to be removed from his duties during a season of scandal in Alabama. The state’s House speaker was convicted of ethics charges last year. Gov. Robert Bentley resigned last week amid an effort to impeach him after the fallout from an alleged affair.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, the state panel that disciplines judges, handed down the punishment against Moore in September, saying he violated judicial ethics by urging judges to defy clearly established law as well as a direct federal court order.

The charges against Moore centered on a memo he sent state probate judges on Jan. 6, 2016, six months after the highest court in the nation ruled that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry.

Moore said in the memo that a 2015 Alabama Supreme Court order to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples remained in “full force and effect.” Alabama’s probate judges at the time were under a federal judge’s order to stop enforcing the state’s gay-marriage ban following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Moore had maintained his memo was not a directive to judges, but only a “status update” noting that the 2015 decision had not been rescinded, and appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.

A panel of Alabama judges was selected at random to hear the case after his colleagues on the state’s highest court recused themselves. These judges upheld both the findings that Moore violated judicial ethics with his actions and his suspension for the remainder of his term.

His attorneys had argued that the permanent suspension was unlawful since court rules require a unanimous decision to remove a judge.

Moore said the case against him was politically motivated “to remove me from office because of my steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage.”

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the complaint against Moore, called the notion “ridiculous.”

“He richly deserves the punishment he got because he was unable, or unwilling, to separate his personal religious beliefs from his judicial responsibilities. We’ll all be better off without the Ayatollah of Alabama,” Cohen said.

This is the second time Moore has been removed from his duties as chief justice. The first was in 2003, after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument that he had installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building. Moore was re-elected as chief justice in 2012.

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