John Roberts: One Pro Bono Case Does Not A Philosophy Make

08/05/2005 12:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

David Corn posted yesterday that since John Roberts can now be called a "gay rights champion," liberals should consider Roberts to be more acceptable than Scalia, Thomas or Rehnquist.

Corn often makes brilliant observations, but I must respectfully, and strongly, disagree with this one.

The argument is that since Roberts, while working at a corporate law firm, did some pro bono work for gay rights activists in a 1996 discrimination case, he must at least be sympathetic to gay rights.

But Roberts has already proven that his occasional public interest legal work is no indicator of his judicial philosophy.

He also stood with environmental activists in a 2002 Supreme Court case, defeating an attempt to develop a pristine part of Lake Tahoe. Grist Magazine called it "a major setback for the property-rights movement" and "good news for environmentalists and planners".

Did Roberts' work in that one case mean he would support environmental protections on the bench? Far from it.

In one of his few notable opinions from his short tenure as a federal appeals court judge, Roberts sought to severely restrict our federal government's power to protect endangered species. Environmentalists are deeply concerned that he could use the same reasoning to undercut laws that protect our air and water from pollution.

His judicial philosophy is what counts. Not his token pro bono work.

We know that Roberts does not believe there is a fundamental constitutional right to privacy. That is the right that underpins our freedom to use birth control, terminate unwanted pregnancies, and make pregnancy-related medical decisions to protect the mother's health.

It also underpins Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that our government cannot restrict what two consenting adults do in their bedroom, including gays.

Roberts' views on privacy rights threaten all of that, which will not make him a gay rights champion on the Supreme Court.

More on Roberts and privacy over at LiberalOasis.