HARRISBURG, Penn.– A federal judge appointed by then-President George W. Bush, who is known for his 2005 ruling against the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools, has now struck down a Pennsylvania law banning same-sex “marriage” as unconstitutional.
“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge John Edward Jones II on Tuesday. “We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country, which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.”
As previously reported, the lawsuit Whitewood v. Corbett was filed by the ACLU last July in an attempt to strike down Pennsylvania’s longstanding same-sex “marriage” ban. The lawsuit consists of over 20 plaintiffs, including four homosexual twosomes who were “married” in other states, but are not recognized as a couple in Pennsylvania.
“It is hereby declared to be the strong and longstanding public policy of this Commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman,” Pennsylvania’s “Marriage Between Persons of the Same Sex” statute outlines. “A marriage between persons of the same sex which was entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction, even if valid where entered into, shall be void in this Commonwealth.”
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane were among those named in the suit, but Kane refused to fight the legal challenge as she agreed with the ACLU’s position that the law is unconstitutional. In turn, Schultz asserted that it was Kane who was instead abandoning the Constitution and tapped former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice William H. Lamb to join the team defending the state’s marriage law.
But on Tuesday, Judge Jones sided with the ACLU, stating that although many disagree with homosexual “marriage”, he believes Pennsylvania’s marriage laws violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“[T]hat same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional,” he wrote. “Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.”
Jones pointed to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, decided by a Republican majority, which struck down Texas’ ban on sodomy. He also pointed to the court’s recent ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which threw out a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“With the weight and impetus of the foregoing Supreme Court jurisprudence in mind, this Court is not only moved by the logic that the fundamental right to marry is a personal right to be exercised by the individual, but also rejects Defendants’ contention that concepts of history and tradition dictate that same-sex marriage is excluded from the fundamental right to marry,” Jones wrote.
“The right Plaintiffs seek to exercise is not a new right, but is rather a right that these individuals have always been guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” he said.
Jones became known in 2005 for ruling against the teaching of Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania public schools after a legal battle emerged when the Dover School District sought to teach Intelligent Design as a balanced alternative to evolution. The district desired to reference the book Of Pandas and People in its science classes, but the ACLU objected, stating that it would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the ID (Intelligent Design) policy,” he ruled. “[O]ur conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”
Pennsylvania officials have 30 days to appeal Jones’ ruling striking down the Commonwealth’s marriage laws. Gov. Corbett has yet to indicate whether he will continue the battle in court.