New race, same homophobia: Roy Moore harks back to 'moral' times

U.S. Senate candidate and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore called for a return to “moral” times, before gay marriage, sodomy and abortion were legal.
Image: Roy Moore
Roy Moore announces his plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2020 on June 20, 2019 in Montgomery, Ala.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images
By Gwen Aviles

Senate candidate and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is calling for a return to “moral” times before gay marriage, sodomy and abortion were legal.

“We have got to go back to what we did back in the ’60s and ’70s, back to a moral basis. We had abortion laws in our state,” Moore told the Huntsville Republican Men’s Breakfast group on Saturday, according to news station WZDX. “We did not have same-sex marriage. We did not have transgender rights. Sodomy was illegal. These things were just not around when my classmates and I went to West Point and Vietnam.”

Moore added that he was particularly disturbed by the U.S. education system, lamenting that gender identity was taught in schools.

“We have drag queens teaching kindergarten children in this state and this community … in Huntsville, in Mobile, they taught kids, and they dress them up in drag,” Moore said, presumably referring to Drag Queen Story Hour, a collection of national events at which drag queens read stories in schools, libraries and book stores in an effort to foster a love of reading and educate children about diversity and acceptance.

“Gender identity is being taught in California to young kids, and parents have no choice but to let their kids be taught that," Moore continued.

Moore did not respond to NBC News' request for comment regarding his remarks on Saturday.

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His longstanding opposition to LGBTQ rights has been well documented, however. In a 2005 interview, he stated that “homosexual conduct should be illegal,” and in 2016, he was suspended from the Supreme Court of Alabama when he refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, claiming it didn’t apply to Alabama.

“Well, that’s Roy Moore,” Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, told NBC News, upon hearing about Moore's latest comments. “These remarks are not surprising at all. In fact, his actions based on these beliefs are what got him twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court.”

Moore was first removed from the state's high court in 2003, after he defied orders to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. He was then suspended in 2016 for instructing probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Moore, 72, lost a Senate run two years ago to Democrat Doug Jones for the seat that Jeff Sessions, a Republican, left vacant to become President Donald Trump's attorney general. Sessions announced this month that he is running to win back his old seat amid a crowded GOP primary field that includes Moore and Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach at Auburn. The primary is March 3, 2020.

During the 2017 Senate run, Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by several women, one of whom said she was 14 at the time, in 1979.

Moore denied the accusations and blamed them on liberals, socialists and the LGBTQ community. During a2017speech at the Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore, Alabama, Moore told the audience that he was leading in the polls, but “they” are trying to “change that” and sabotage him.

“When I say 'they,' who are they?” he said. "They're liberals; they don't hold conservative values. They’re the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered who want to change our culture. They're socialists who want to change our way of life."

In the 2017 race, Jones, now considered perhaps the most vulnerable Democrat running for re-election in the Senate, received the endorsement of the national LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign for his views on LGBTQ issues and support for protecting the rights of transgender people in the military and in public schools.

Alabama does not have laws prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, Alabama is one of nine states that require “proof of surgery,” a court order or an amended birth certificate to change a gender marker on a driver’s license.

While progress has been slow, gains in equality have been made in the state — especially since the decades Moore referred to. As Marshall points out, segregation was legal in Alabama during the 1960s, and Judge Myron Thompson is expected to declare Alabama’s gender marker requirement unconstitutional.

“We’re not going back. The law’s been decided in favor of protecting LGBTQ people, and it’s not going to change, except to hopefully become more inclusive,” Marshall said. “To long for the ’60s and ’70s as a bygone era completely misses the historical context."

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