- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore lashed out Wednesday at organizations seeking his removal from office and defended his actions seemingly aimed at blocking gays and lesbians from marrying in the state.

Moore, in a news conference at the state judicial building, defended his actions. Those include a January administrative order telling probate judges that a state court order to refuse same-sex marriage licenses remained “in full force and effect” despite last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

“For months I’ve sat back while complaint after complaint has been filed by persons and individuals and organizations which have mischaracterized and misstated my position. There is nothing in writing that you will find that I told anybody to disobey a federal court order. That’s not what I said,” Moore said.

The news conference came as the Judicial Inquiry Commission considered complaints filed against Moore over his actions

Moore, who has argued gay marriage is an unsettled legal issue in Alabama, said he never told judges to disobey a court order. He said he was pointing out the earlier Alabama order, filed in a case brought by the conservative Alabama Policy Institute, had not been lifted.

Asked on Wednesday if probate judges should be issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, Moore said, “that’s for that probate judge to decide.”

Despite Moore’s January order, most Alabama counties are issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. However, a few Alabama counties have shut down marriage license operations, and are not issuing them to anyone, in order to avoid giving licenses to gay couples.

Mat Staver, who represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis after she refused to issue marriage licenses, appeared with Moore at the news conference and called the complaints against Moore politically motivated.

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed one of the complaints, released a statement referring to Moore as the “ayatollah of Alabama.”

“All he’s doing, of course, is demonstrating once again why he’s unfit to be the chief justice of Alabama,” Cohen said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint to the state’s judicial inquiry commission last year after Moore publicly criticized a federal judge’s ruling overturning Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban. The advocacy group filed a supplement to that complaint after Moore’s administrative orders to probate judges.

The status of the ethics complaints against Moore is unknown since the proceedings are confidential. The panel could forward the complaint to a court of the judiciary for possible sanctions.

An ethics complaint led to Moore’s removal as the state’s chief justice in 2003. The court of judiciary found Moore violated judicial ethics when he disobeyed a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. Moore was re-elected as chief justice in 2013. The Wednesday press conference was held a few feet from where the monument once sat.

Some of Moore’s comments Wednesday drew condemnation from a gay rights group after he said transgender individuals were recently considered mentally ill.

“We’re in a serious time in our country. We are at a time in our country when people who just a few years ago would have been prescribed a mental illness, a mental disorder,” Moore said as he described a protester outside the state Supreme Court this year who helped people file complaint forms against him with the ethics panel. Diagnostic manuals had until 2013 listed a diagnosis for gender identity disorder.

“Our hope is that the chief justice of the highest court of the state of Alabama would be looking out for the rights and well-being of all Alabamians. His statements today indicate he has very little respect for the transgender community in Alabama,” said Eva Walton Kendrick, state manager of the Human Rights Campaign.

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