Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is no stranger to controversy. After being removed from office nine years ago for refusing to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, Moore is once again facing the possibility of being removed from office, this time for his stance on same-sex marriage. But while the scenario sounds familiar, the fact that an Alabama drag queen has become his most vocal opponent makes the latest dust up genuinely bizarre, even by Alabama politics’ standards.
How we got here
Moore is for the second time facing the possibility of being removed from office after the Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended him for “flagrantly disregard(ing) and abus(ing) his authority” with respect to the issue of same sex marriage.
After the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban, Moore instructed probate judges around the state to ignore the court’s order and continue upholding the Alabama Constitution, which affirms the traditional definition of marriage. Most probate judges around the state are now issuing same sex marriage licenses, while a handful have opted to stop issuing marriage licenses all together, rather than violate their conscience.
Some legal analysts have argued that Moore’s actions constitute a violation of the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while Moore argues that only the U.S. Supreme Court — not the Judicial Inquiry Commission — has the standing to decide such matters.
Meet Ambrosia Starling
Ambrosia Starling is an anonymous Alabama drag queen that has led the way on protests against Chief Justice Moore. In January, Starling led a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court building, where opponents filled out more than 40 complaints against Alabama’s top judge.
“If it takes a drag queen to remind you that liberty and justice is for all, here I am,” Starling told the Associated Press, which dubbed him Roy Moore’s “worst nightmare.”
Starling has lived in Dothan since birth and is a gay man who dresses up like a woman to perform in drag. When not on stage, the 43-year-old Starling dresses like a male and goes to a regular job to maintain anonymity.
The drag queen has always protested the Chief Justice in full attire, including hair, make-up, and high heels. Frequently calling Moore a bigot, Starling has been at the forefront of the LGBT fight against Alabama’s top jurist.
Moore has acknowledged Starling by name
On numerous occasions, Moore has specifically called out the drag queen as the embodiment of the agenda he is fighting against. During a news conference last Friday, Moore stated that just a few years ago, people like Starling would have been classified as having a mental disorder.
In a statement put out by the chief justice following his suspension imposed by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, he specifically cited Ambrosia Sterling as the reason that he is at risk for losing his job for the second time since 2003.
Moore said he believes the commission has “chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda.”
Starling wants to remain anonymous
Starling has done all of the protests and media appearances in drag because the performer is worried about being revealed.
“I have a 71-year-old mother who lives with me that I have to worry about,” Starling told the AP.
He insists, though, that he is a “churchgoing Christian who lives a normal life when not dressed in drag.”
Roy Moore’s attorney stated that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges against his client some time within the next 30 days, but Starling and other LGBT activists show no signs of halting their push to have him removed from office.