“Children Must Be Protected”

Roy Moore’s attacks on gay people look even more sinister in light of the allegation that he molested a 14-year-old girl.

Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally on Sept. 25 in Fairhope, Alabama.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Roy Moore has never been one to back down from a fight—and for many years, his chief battle was with same-sex parents. Moore has argued that the government should seize the children of gay people and send their parents to prison. During his two abridged terms as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he stated that homosexuality is “an inherent evil” that renders gay people “unfit parent[s].” After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Moore refused to recognize the validity of its decision, declaring that he could not condemn children to be “raised in unnatural families that contradict the created order.”

Now Moore, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, and pursuing three other teenage girls, when he was in his 30s and serving as an assistant district attorney. The allegations, first reported in the Washington Post, put his jurisprudence in a sinister new light. In his opinions, Moore has positioned himself as a righteous crusader for evangelical justice with a profound concern for the emotional and spiritual well-being of children. In his life, Moore has allegedly engaged in the precise abuse he has accused gay people of perpetrating.

Moore’s history of reproving gay people from the bench goes back two decades. As a circuit judge, he ruled in a 1996 custody case that a lesbian parent could not see her children unsupervised, or with her same-sex partner. He wrote that, because she was gay, the mother posed a heightened danger to her children. An appeals court ultimately removed him from the case on account of blatant bias.

Six years later, having secured a spot on the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore picked up this thread in the notorious D.H. v. H.H, which centered on a custody dispute between a lesbian and her heterosexual ex-husband. The mother in the case had asked for custody of her three children, accusing her ex-husband of physically abusing them. The trial court denied her request, downplaying the father’s abuse as “occasional excessive disciplinary measures” while criticizing the “alcoholic lesbian” mother’s “lifestyle.” A court of appeals reversed, holding that the mother “had presented substantial evidence” of the father’s “verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.”

The Alabama Supreme Court unanimously reversed that ruling, asserting that the appeals court had improperly weighed evidence presented to the trial court. Moore, then chief justice, wrote in his concurrence that the “homosexual conduct of a parent creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others.” He continued:

Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated. Such conduct violates both the criminal and civil laws of this State and is destructive to a basic building block of society—the family. … [S]uch behavior has a destructive and seriously detrimental effect on the children. It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected.

Moore’s argument against permitting gay people to adopt children—or even to maintain custody of their own kids—was twofold. First, he insisted that “homosexual conduct by a parent is inherently detrimental to children,” and that “practicing homosexuals” should be subject to imprisonment or “physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution.” Second, Moore strongly implied that gay people, and gay parents in particular, are eager to recruit children to their “lifestyle.” He warned that the effect of “the homosexual lifestyle” on children “must not be ignored, and the lifestyle should never be tolerated.” Alabama, Moore concluded, must use its “power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”

These dire warnings about “the subversion of children” functioned as a not-so-subtle dog whistle, raising the canard that a disproportionate number of gay people are child predators. Gay parents’ “detrimental effect” on their children would be understood to transcend mere indoctrination. Propaganda put out by the anti-gay Family Research Council around this period explicitly claimed that gay people are especially likely to engage in child molestation. Moore’s writing about the perils of same-sex parenting clearly echoes these smear tactics.

In 2003, Moore was removed from the bench for refusing to comply with a federal court order compelling him to take down a monument of the Ten Commandments that he’d commissioned for his court. But in 2012, Alabama voters returned him to the state Supreme Court, where he resumed his campaign against gays. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage bans violate the Constitution. Yet in January 2016, Moore issued an administrative order barring Alabama probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples—directly flouting settled federal law. (Moore was eventually suspended from the bench for this action.)

Two months after issuing the order, Moore announced that he himself would not apply, or recognize the validity of, Obergefell. In a bizarre opinion, he denounced the ruling as “immoral, unconstitutional, and tyrannical.” Citing the Bible, Moore explained:

[Obergefell] plunges the human soul into a wasteland of meaninglessness where every man defines his own anarchic reality. In that godless world nothing has meaning or consequence except as the human being desires. Man then becomes the creator of his own reality rather than a subject of the Creator of the Declaration.

“The great sufferers will be the children,” he added, “who are raised in unnatural families that contradict the created order.” Years earlier, in a radio interview, Moore had suggested that same-sex marriage could lead to adult-child marriage, a claim he repeated weeks later at a Family Research Council summit. As CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski has reported, Moore has also said that marriage equality will lead to child abuse.

After Thursday’s report in the Washington Post, Moore’s fixation on protecting children looks much more disturbing. For 20 years, he ranted about the imminent threat of gays corrupting children while allegedly concealing his own history of sexually assaulting one teenager and romantically pursuing others. The Post’s revelations should forever change our understanding of his judicial philosophy. In fulminating about the menace of homosexual child predation, Moore may have been projecting his own alleged crimes onto the law.