From his time in a district attorney’s office to his multiple stints as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and his current candidacy for the Senate, Roy Moore has fashioned himself as the tip of the spear in the American culture wars—and the ultimate arbiter of sexual morality.
But with only 33 days before the special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate, the political landscape of Alabama was leveled with the kind of eleventh-hour detonation once only imaginable by Edwin Edwards: Moore, the odds-on favorite to win Sessions’ seat, was accused of making sexual advances on four teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was in his thirties.
According to The Washington Post, to which the women spoke on the record, Moore pursued a girl as young as 14 years old when he was working as a deputy district attorney in Etowah County, Alabama.
“I wanted it over with—I wanted out,” recalled Leigh Corfman, who told the Post that when she was 14, Moore took her to his secluded home, removed their clothes, and guided her hands over his underwear. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
According to Alabama state law at the time of the alleged offense, anyone over the age of 19 who subjects another person under the age of 16 to sexual contact is guilty of second-degree sexual abuse.
Moore’s campaign has denied the accusations, calling them “the very definition of fake news.”
Of the many high-profile men in the sphere of entertainment, media and politics to be accused of sexual impropriety in recent months, Moore is perhaps the first to have built much of his career and national profile as a champion of moral values, a reputation he has carried into his current run for the U.S. Senate.
“I want to see virtue and morality returned to our country and God is the only source of our law, liberty and government,” Moore said during a primary debate with Luther Strange, the current holder of Sessions’ seat.
It was Moore’s infamously rigid views of homosexuality—and his attendant ethics violations—that resulted in his second removal from the Alabama Supreme Court. In January 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, Moore issued an administrative order declaring that the state’s probate judges had “a ministerial duty” not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But beyond Moore’s wary eye on same-sex marriage, the candidate’s legal career is marked by instances of condemnation and even outright revulsion at homosexuality under any circumstance. In a 2002 decision, Moore sided against a lesbian woman during a custody battle because of her sexuality.
“Disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants,” Moore wrote in D.H. v. H.H., a custody case in which he sided with a father who had been accused of abuse over a lesbian mother. “Exposing a child to such behavior has a destructive and seriously detrimental effect on the children. It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected.”
In another divorce case over which Moore presided, first uncovered by CNN, he barred a lesbian mother from visiting her children without supervision, writing that “the minor children will be detrimentally affected by the present lifestyle of [Mrs. Borden] who has engaged in a homosexual relationship during her marriage, forbidden both by the laws of the State of Alabama and the Laws of Nature.”
Moore also has routinely compared homosexuality to bestiality, calling sex with a cow, horse, or dog “the same thing” as same-sex relations.
Moore’s views on sexuality and the law aren’t uniformly condemnatory, however. In 2015, during his second stint as chief justice, Moore was the lone dissenter in the case of a daycare worker who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple preschool-aged children. The worker was found guilty of first-degree sodomy, under an expansion of the “implied threat” clause of the statute that would include factors like age and physical maturity of the victim when prosecuting child-sex cases.
In his lone dissent, Moore declared that “this Court has no ‘right’ or ‘authority’ to make a ‘new’ law to govern conduct between minors the legislature obviously chose not to address.” Besides, Moore said in the case involving a 17-year-old who sexually assaulted children between the ages of 3 and 5, “there was no evidence in this case of an implied threat of serious physical injury.”