The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker Tuesday, accusing him of discussing a same-sex marriage case pending before the court on a radio program.
The complaint also accuses Parker of suggesting the state could resist the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country.
The SPLC, which supports LGBT rights, filed a similar complaint against Chief Justice Roy Moore earlier this year, over comments he made on same-sex marriage.
“I think it should disturb everyone who believes in the rule of law that Supreme Court justices are urging defiance of the law,” said Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC. “That should concern everyone.”
Parker dismissed the complaint in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“This SPLC complaint is, like nearly everything that comes out of that organization, frivolous and not worthy of comment,” the statement said.
In March, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges in the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The order came following a lawsuit by the Alabama Policy Institute (API) and the Alabama Citizens Action Project (ALCAP), conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage.
After the nation’s high court struck down same-sex marriage bans in June in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Alabama Supreme Court asked for briefings on the decision. API and ALCAP argued in briefs that an 1859 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturning the federal conviction of a man who attempted to help a slave escape provided a precedent. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled Wisconsin in the case.
According to the complaint, Parker — a former API executive director — spoke favorably about the plaintiffs’ proposals in an Oct. 6 interview with Bryan Fischer, a radio show host.
“I think it was a model of what we need to see in this country,” the complaint quotes Parker saying.
Parker also told Fischer that the states should serve as checks on the federal government, and that a state Supreme Court “would be a proper organ” for that. Parker said there would not be “blanket defiance” of the nation’s high court.
“But in regard to the Obergefell decision, where it’s clear that they jumped outside of all the precedents in order to impose their will on this country, that yes, resisting that decision could maybe start a revival of what we need in this country to return to our founding principles,” the complaint quotes Parker saying.
The complaint said Parker’s comments “offer ridicule and suggest defiance” of the judiciary.
“Such (a) rallying cry not only violates the Canons of Judicial Ethics, it violates his oath to uphold the Constitution because “‘[n]o judicial officer can war on the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it,'” says the complaint, quoting 1958’s Cooper v. Aaron, an Arkansas school desegregation case.
Cohen said the SPLC would defer to the Judicial Inquiry Commission on what sanctions, if any, to impose. The status of the SPLC’s earlier complaint against Moore is not clear.
Parker was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004. The judge is outspoken in his conservative social viewpoints. Last year, ProPublica said Parker’s writings made him a “pivotal figure” in the personhood movement, which seeks to outlaw abortion nationwide.