Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore is no stranger to controversy, almost all of which he intentionally and single-handedly inspires. The former personal injury lawyer first gained national notoriety more than a decade ago when he was serving his initial term as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. During that very brief tenure at the helm of the court, Moore grabbed the national spotlight when he commissioned a massive 5,300 pound granite sculpture honoring the Ten Commandments - and then had his stone monstrosity installed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judiciary Building. Several groups sued, and a federal judge eventually ruled that the religious edifice had to be removed. Moore refused to do so, a defiance that led to his own removal from office - along with his sculpture.
(Roy Moore also had a history of having prayer as a part of the court process when he was a circuit judge, and he once gave custody of minor children to an abusive father because the children's mother was a lesbian - and therefore, in the judge's fundamentalist mind, not fit to be a parent.)
In the years that followed Roy Moore twice ran for governor of Alabama - as a Republican, of course - but was soundly defeated in each attempt. He also publicly toyed with the idea of running for President, possibly on the Constitution Party ticket, but never followed through in that endeavor. Then, in 2012, he again ran for his old post of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and somehow narrowly managed to win that election.
As the new Chief Justice, it didn't take Roy Moore too long to figure out how to again finagle his way into the national news. In January a federal judge ruled that Alabama's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional and said the state should begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Before that could happen, the attorney general of Alabama appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the federal judge's ruling. Shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court acted on the matter, Chief Justice Moore of Alabama issued a "directive" to all state probate judges that forbid them to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. This week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to interfere with the federal judge's order - thus clearing the way for gay marriages in Alabama - but - a spokesman for the Chief Justice of Alabama said that his directive still stands.
As of the most recent count, 23 Alabama counties are now issuing marriage licenses to all couples who apply, 18 counties are issuing marriage licenses to straight couples only, and 26 counties are not issuing any marriage licenses at all.
Roy Moore has been elected twice to be Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and each time he has created a standoff with the federal government. The first time he was removed from office for his religious intolerance and arrogance. That needs to happen again.