unsure things

Iowa’s Gay Marriage Law: Voters Show It’s Not a Sure Thing

Even though no state had voters weighing in on a same-sex marriage ballot issue in yesterday’s elections, the fine people of Iowa — which became the third state to legalize it last year — still got a chance to weigh in on the issue. And boy did they, ousting State Supreme Court justices David Baker, Michael Streit, and Marsha Ternus, whose support of the measure was their downfall.

Thanks to the lovely efforts of the American Family Association, Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the National Organization for Marriage, Iowa’s justices now live in actual fear of having their bench seats revoked if they piss off the will of the people

[Mike] Gronstal, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, has repeatedly vowed to never allow a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage to come up for a vote. But with Republicans in control of the Iowa House, and a much smaller Democratic advantage in the state Senate, marriage may become a big issue during the 2011 session. During the 2010 session, advocates for an amendment came just five votes shy of forcing a vote on marriage over Gronstal’s objections.

And thank goodness we now have all this out-of-state money flowing into Iowa to decide the matter, because surely the Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign can save us!

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  • Polyboy

    Hrm, I wonder how soon before the camps open up?


    What a fucking absolute disgrace.

    Judges are supposed to base their rulings on the legal doctrines of the judicial code plain and simple. The agenda of a clearly biased group of individuals is supposed to have zero impact on the rulings of a judge. To impose their agenda on the judicial branch is to basically say that the entire foundation of this country is invalid and they are chosing to ignore the intent of the constitution and the founding fathers…….

  • Tom

    The irony is that two of the three justices that were ousted were appointed by the incoming Republican governor. The voters in my home state of Iowa based their decision on emotion, not rationale. People are hurting economically and when out-of-state money outspends retention efforts by a 3:1 margin, it doesn’t matter what state we’re talking about….they were going down.

  • Daez

    Honestly, I’ve already made my peace with the fact that no matter how unfair, there will never be national gay marriage or state gay marriage in my state of Ohio in my lifetime.

    If we would start pushing for fully equal civil partnerships, we would have this fight over by now. Separate but equal is bull shit, but bull shit is better than where we stand now.

  • Cam

    The nice thing about Iowa is that it takes a vote in two consecutive legislatures to amend the state constitution. So to pass an anti-gay amendment would require two votes over two years.

    And #4 Daez. The ONLY reason that some on the right are saying that they support civil unions is because we are fighting for marriage. If we were fighting for civil unions they would say that they support our rights to hospital visits but not civil unions. They will always claim to support something one step down from what we are pushing for.

  • Mike

    As a Canadian, the concept of electing judges is so bizarre. Aren’t the courts supposed to act as part of the system of checks and balances against the “tyranny of the majority”? How can a judge feel secure in making any (progressive) ruling on civil or human rights, which, almost by definition, would be a ruling against legislation favouring the majority?

  • Adam

    @Mike: You hit the nail right on the head.

  • Kyle

    To clear up some misconceptions:

    (1) Judges in Iowa are not elected. They are appointed, but are up for retention every eight years as a sort of “panic switch” for extreme cases when the judge is not performing or being unethical.

    (2) The ruling stands. It will still take a great effort to even begin to change it into a constitutional amendment.

    (3) The Human Rights Campaign never once even acknowledged the situation in Iowa. They never once helped. It bothers me know that they act like they did, but they never helped. They stood from Washington DC and looked on. They well knew what was going to happen, but never did anything. It’s incredibly frustrating and sad. I will NEVER support the Human Rights Campaign after seeing how little they cared about the “unimportant” state of Iowa–my state.

  • SpiffyShindigs

    Why the hell do we vote for Judges?

    The mind, it boggles.

  • Mike

    @Kyle: whether they are elected initially or are subjected to retention votes, my point remains the same. Can someone tell me how widespread in the U.S. is the election of judges?

  • Stefan

    Fortunately, Culver will be able to appoint three equally liberal judges prior to him leaving office. The soonest this could even reach voters would be 2014.

    I’m more concerned about New Hampshire, where the Republicans won veto proof majorities in both houses, though last year during the massively failed effort to repeal the gay marriage bill (I don’t even know when it was even attempted, such a waste of time) around 30 Republicans voted against repeal. I assume there will be even more now with the huge wave though.

  • Brock Taner

    @Daez: Don’t accept anything! Fight for equality, damn it! We have it in 5 states and the sky hasn’t fallen! This is your rights! Blacks didn’t accept second-class treatment.


  • B

    No. 8 · Kyle wrote, “To clear up some misconceptions:(1) Judges in Iowa are not elected. They are appointed, but are up for retention every eight years as a sort of “panic switch” for extreme cases when the judge is not performing or being unethical.”

    …. just out of curiosity, can the governor (who was not reelected) simply appoint the three justices who were thrown out?
    It could be his way of thumbing his nose at the voters who thumbed their noses at him.

  • mconyc08

    @Daez: I am sorry Daez. I really am :(

  • Mysanthropic Destiny

    If people want to be ignorant, prejudiced, and hateful sheep then it is there choice. Honestly, what control we have is only over ourselves, and we really don’t have to take such shit.

  • dave

    The irony is, getting rid of the judges isn’t going to change anything. It’s doubtful another marriage case could even make it before the court. Generally, nobody has standing to sue arguing that somebody else *doesn’t* have a constitutional right.

    That, and the outgoing governor will just appoint three more justices who, if anything, will probably be more liberal than the Republican appointees who were just removed.

    It’s a pretty hollow gesture, and the chance that it will actually affect the state of marriage in Iowa is pretty much zero.

  • Jeffree

    The campaign to oust the “Iowa 3” was symbolic: NOM (Maggie Gallagher, etc.), FRC, American Family Association et al were trying to send a direct message to “activist judges” in other states.

    Their message is that any efforts to “promote” samesex marriage from the bench will result in national attention and campaigns to boot out those judges.
    So, any judge who rules that SSM is consistent with the state constitution may find his/herself out of a job.

  • reason

    The GBLT community abandoned these judges, to busy attacking attacking the president in Washington. People talking about not voting, well the message has been sent loud and clear. You help the GBLT community not only will they ditch you, but you will pay a heavy price. With this huge republican wave of not only the U.S. Congress but governorships and state houses is going to badly damage the GBLT community. Most of the legislation that effects the community comes out of state houses and they are going to be drumming up all sorts of anti-gay legislation that will be signed by their governors, and be far out of reach of the federal government. The attack on the national party for elections that affect your states couldn’t have been any dumber. The GOP is also going to be holding the pen during redistricting which is going to make it more difficult of Democrats to get elected to county and state offices. So the GBLT people that didn’t vote or wasted votes on green, thanks for stabbing the community in the back though I guess we should have expected any less.

  • Brian Miller


    The GBLT community abandoned these judges, to busy attacking attacking the president in Washington.

    Oh nonsense. There isn’t a very large gay community in Iowa.

    GBLT people that didn’t vote or wasted votes on green, thanks for stabbing the community in the back

    Oh, blow it out your pie-hole. Voting for Greens, Libertarians or independents has NOTHING to do with voting to retain a judge in Iowa.

    Stop trying to blame the victim for your homophobic party’s inability to stay in office and get ANYTHING done despite two years of unprecedented power. At this point, it’s just retarded.

  • gerry


    The source of Govt power whether legislative, executive, or judicial is, “we the people.” Iowa has a provision to let it’s citizens retain or not it’s judges, it is what it is. It also has a provision to amend it’s constitution and the people of Iowa could amend it’s constitution to allow only heterosexual marriage and if it did so the Iowa supreme court could not reverse it regardless how liberal it’s members. That is what it is as well. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn’t. The alternate to “we, the people” is “Me, the dictator”. I’ll take “we, the people” any day.

  • Dan

    One correction to what someone said: two consecutive legislatures is not two years – it is two election cycles, so it would not be 2010 and 2011 for example, it would have to pass before the 2012 election and then again in the exact same form and wording after the 2012 election, and then it wouldn’t be voted on until the next election in 2014 so the earliest in any event would be 2014, and if it isn’t voted on before 2012 then the earliest would be 2016. In any event the earliest would be after 5 years of having equality and people seeing the world not cave in, and polls show 55% of Iowans still don’t want to put discrimination in the Iowa constitution. Also you wouldn’t believe how many democrats, independents, and republicans are very upset that the justices were voted out, and that’s going to spur a lot of voters to turn up the next election to boot the politicians trying to ruin the justice system in Iowa. Also, data showed that in the most populated regions of Iowa, which actually received the message about why to retain the justices, in those regions, the vote to retain was won, so it really was just a matter of extremist out-of-state groups out spending the retention side, and that most Iowans when they hear both sides would vote to retain justices to maintain the checks and balances of democracy that sustain the rule of law in the first place.

  • Dan

    The crucial nature of Equal Protection under Law as an irreplaceable requirement of justice, fairness, the rule of law, and democracy is expressed with a quote of James Bovard: “Democracy has to be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”

  • Josephine

    Remember when we used to pledge allegance to the flag in school? All of theses people that are fighting to abolish gay anything. Where were they when our allegance to the flag was removed from our schools?

    My God is a loving God. Love thy nieghbor. Let God be the only judge. What happend to these sayings to live by?

    Come on people lets live our own lives and stop medelling in everyone elses business. Grow up already.

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