May 20, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Santorum-backed judge brings marriage equality to Pa.
Rick Santorum, gay news, Washington Blade

Rick Santorum recommended to the bench the judge who brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The unanimous confirmation of U.S. District Judge John Edward Jones III was hardly controversial in 2002, but the judge, who on Tuesday brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania, had at the time a notable cheerleader: Rick Santorum.

The two-term Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania known for his comparison of same-sex relationships to “man on dog” sex and his vehement opposition to same-sex marriage recommended Jones to then-President George W. Bush, who later named him to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

It’s not unusual for Republican-appointed judges to rule in favor of marriage equality following the U.S. Supreme Court decision against DOMA, but Santorum’s faith in Jones as someone who would uphold traditional values stands out considering the judge’s later decision to bring same-sex marriage to Pennsylvania.

According to a 2002 article in the Lehigh Valley-based newspaper “The Morning Call,” Santorum said he was excited about Jones at the time of his investiture because he “understands our values and traditions.”

“Too often we forget about having judges who understand our values and our traditions,” Santorum is quoted as saying.

Reportedly, Santorum recalled a ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals at the time that determined the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because it contained the words “under God,” saying that would be the kind of ruling Jones wouldn’t make.

“That wouldn’t happen in Schuylkill County,” Santorum was quoted as saying, “because people here are the salt of the earth and true Americans.”

But the values that Jones espoused in his decision Tuesday against Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage are decidedly different from the American values often cited by Santorum.

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote about Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban.

The same article describes then-Secretary of Homeland Security and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as supportive of Jones, but Ridge now supports marriage equality — as he indicated in a recent address at the annual dinner for the Log Cabin Republicans.

It was only a couple of years later that Santorum would become a leading voice in the U.S. Senate for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country. During his presidential bid in 2012, Santorum ran in support of that measure and was vocal in his opposition to the referendum in Washington State that brought marriage equality there.

During Jones’ confirmation hearing 2002, Santorum praised Jones as an effective attorney with established credentials, according to a Senate transcript of the hearing.

“John Jones is another outstanding lawyer and has served not just as an outstanding lawyer, but served the community beyond the practice of law,” Santorum said.

Santorum pointed to Jones’ work as head of the Liquor Control Board in Pennsylvania, saying Jones shepherded the agency through difficult waters and dramatically improved its efficiency.

“It shows his commitment to public service, but he has also been, as Senator Specter noted, an outstanding litigator, an outstanding attorney in Schuylkill County,” Santorum concluded.

One might may have expected Jones to rule in a conservative manner. He was aligned with the Republican Party, and in 1992, unsuccessfully ran on the GOP ticket to represent Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district in the U.S. House.

But the marriage equality decision is not the first time that Jones ruled in a manner contrary to the philosophy of social conservatives. In 2005, he struck down a law in Pennsylvania requiring that schools teach intelligent design, an alternative to the theory of evolution that espouses Creationist views of life on earth.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, was succinct in his thoughts on Santorum’s confidence in Jones in 2002 as a magistrate on the federal judiciary.

“For once, Mr. Santorum and I agree on something,” Angelo said.

Of course, credit for the Jones nomination also goes to former President George W. Bush, who also opposes same-sex marriage and made passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment a major part of his 2004 re-election campaign.

Patriot Voices, the conservative grassroots group that Rick Santorum launched in the aftermath of his failed presidential bid, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Santorum now regrets recommending Jones in the aftermath of the marriage decision.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

2 Comments
  • There is nothing in any constitution that supports illegal discrimination once that illegal discrimination has been discovered in a court of law with due evidence.

    In fact, this 20 year YOUNG marriage ban fad started in American BECAUSE without these illegal bans artificially "stayed" in place, marriage equality is implicit and understood to be universal for all Law-abiding adult Americans.

    ALL of us.

    Antigays didn't "like" American state constitutions as written because they were "too fair" to LGBTs, so the worst of them endeavored to trample whatever state constitutions they could sink their claws into, so they could shred the bits that "offend" their sensibilities…

    ENOUGH PANDERING TO THAT!

    Pummeling constitutions to be mean is a dead art, so adjust antigays. It's time.

  • Thought this was interesting ..

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