Judge talks about overturning Pa. same-sex marriage ban - abc27 WHTM

Judge talks about overturning Pa. same-sex marriage ban

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Judge John Jones III knows he's being called an "activist judge" after his ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage in Pennsylvania.

In an interview Monday in his Harrisburg chambers, Jones offered his own definition of the term:

"An activist judge is one with whom you disagree," he said.

He also noted that it comes with the territory when you're on the federal bench.

"Dennis, every time we rule we make somebody unhappy," he said.

But Jones couldn't have made same-sex couples happier than he did last month when his 39-page ruling struck down Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage.

The opinion's strongest language is in its final sentences, which Jones read for us.

"That same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some, does not make its prohibition constitutional," he said. "We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

But Jones' ruling isn't universally embraced. The Pennsylvania Pastors Network held a rally in the Capitol Monday blasting the ruling in general and Judge Jones specifically.

"I am now considered a homophobe if I don't embrace gay marriage," said an animated Pastor David Reinwald of Kissinger's Lutheran Church in Wyomissing.

"We are not here today to condemn anyone, but when the family and our culture is impacted by activist judges who seek to overturn God's laws and civil laws, we can't sit still and do nothing."

Sam Rohrer, president of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, went a step further in targeting Jones.

"He ought to be removed from office," Rohrer said.

Jones seemed bemused but not surprised when he read those comments from pastors.

"You know, removing people from office might be a little on the extreme side when you don't agree with their decisions, but they're exercising their First Amendment rights," he said. "The last time I checked, we're not a theocracy and I did my job as a United States district judge, and if they disagree with it that's their right."

In 2005, Jones angered the religious right when he shot down the Dover School Board's attempt to teach creationism in science classes, referring to it as breathtakingly inane. With Lutheran roots, Jones says his personal beliefs don't enter in to his professional rulings.

Jones, however, would not be on the bench if not for conservatives. He was pushed by Senator Rick Santorum and given the lifetime appointment by former President George Bush. Conservatives now feel betrayed.

"That's unfortunate, but it's not a concern of mine that I particularly worry about and I think the public needs to understand we are detached ... and independent," he said.

This is judicial independence. If the public didn't understand it before, Jones enlightens us now.

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