Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should be removed from office again, this time for defying the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage, lawyers for a disciplinary commission argued on Wednesday.
Testifying under oath, Moore called the latest charges "ridiculous."
The ethics case involves an administrative order Moore sent six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gays can marry in every U.S. state. Moore said then that because the Alabama Supreme Court had not rescinded the state's gay marriage ban, the state's probate judges remained bound by it.
The outspoken Republican jurist, now 69, was removed from office in 2003 for violating judicial ethics by refusing to remove a Ten Commandments statue, but voters later re-elected him.
"We are here 13 years later because the chief justice learned nothing from that first removal. He continues to defy law," attorney John Carroll told the Court of the Judiciary as he argued on behalf of the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which is seeking Moore's removal.
Moore said his January memo simply provided a status update to judges who had questions because the Alabama Supreme Court had not acted to reverse the state ban.
"I don't encourage anyone to defy a federal court or state court order," Moore said. "I gave them a status in the case, a status of the facts that these orders exist. That is all I did."
Moore's lawyer, Mat Staver, told the court that Moore "did not order them to disobey anything."
But Moore did acknowledge in a testy cross-examination that his administrative order told probate judges to follow the very same state court ban that a federal judge specifically said they could no longer enforce.
"His order sowed confusion. It did not clear it up. He urged defiance, not compliance," another lawyer for the commission, R. Ashby Pate, told the court.
The nine-member court now has 10 days to rule on whether Moore violated judicial ethics, and what punishment he should face if so. A decision to remove him from the bench must be unanimous. The chief judge, Michael Joiner, said a decision was not likely Wednesday, but will come "as soon as possible."
Moore stands accused during a season of political upheaval Alabama. The house speaker was removed from office this summer for ethics violations, and a legislative committee will decide if evidence supports impeaching Gov. Robert Bentley after he was accused of having an affair with a top staffer.
Before the hearing began, rainbow flags and Christian music competed for attention outside.
"The truth is homosexuality is wrong," said Donna Holman, who traveled 12 hours from Iowa and carried a sign saying "It's not OK to be gay.
"Equal marriage is the law. Love will always win,” countered Madison Clark of Montgomery.
KIM CHANDLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS