In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held that laws forbidding same sex marriage violated the state constitution. Since then, the Court has been under attack. (More)
I remember the joy in the air across the country when the Iowa Supreme Court made the fateful unanimous decision that the Iowa marriage laws were unconstitutional in forbidding same sex marriage. It was good to see that my home state was among the first in the country to realize that gender didn’t really dictate who you loved.
For the last couple of years, Iowans of the same sex have been getting married at the same time as Iowans of opposite sex, and the world has not come to an end. In fact, most Iowans were oblivious unless someone they knew personally were among those getting married.
My nephew married the woman of his dreams. Despite the previous twenty two years of his life, he has actually settled down and is becoming quite the spouse. Yes, he still loves to hunt and go out on the Mississippi to party whenever he can, but he allows his wife to help him decide the “whenever he can” part of that. The fact that somewhere right down the road from where he was married there were a couple of men or a couple of women getting married as well never crossed his mind, or caused a ripple of concern about the happiness that he and his wife were having.
However, people from outside Iowa just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that Iowa could actually continue to function properly when gays and lesbians were allowed to marry. The horror! So those out of state interests put up a lot of money, and ran a scare campaign for the 2010 fall election to stop the retention of the three judges that were up for the retention vote this year.
Despite the work of groups like One Iowa and Iowa Pride Network – which was just awarded the Characters Unite award by USA Network – Iowa voters did not retain any of the three Supreme Court judges that were up for retention.
For 50 years, Iowa worked to make the Supreme Court as non-partisan as it can be. Our Supreme Court Justices are not selected by election. Instead, nominations come from lawyers and judges and are not based on party affiliation. A non-partisan committee selects a short list from the submitted names, and sends the short list to the governor for his/her selection. (At least, I hope someday that there will be a “her” governor.) Justices stand the first retention elections after they complete one year in office. If retained they serve eight year terms, with retention elections at the end of each term. This process works well, and the lawyers and judges of Iowa have been pleased with the process and the quality of our Supreme Court. Until last year, voters saw retention elections as a check in case of malfeasance or unethical behavior.
But one unanimous decision is threatening every aspect of the Iowa Supreme Court. Conservative groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court to change how our Supreme Court Justices are selected and retained. Also, there is word of proposed impeachment proceedings to be brought against the remaining four Iowa Supreme Court Justices in the next Iowa legislature.
In researching this court case, I found a connection to Focus on the Family and the National Right To Life Committee. True, the four plaintiffs in the suit are Iowans, but they are being represented by James Bopp, Jr. from Indiana, who was an advisor to Mitt Romney in 2008 and serves as counsel to both the Focus on the Family and the National Right To Life Committee.
How ironic that the groups who insist that the courts shouldn’t be deciding the status of marriage in this country are now using the courts to try to make Iowa change how we determine members of our Supreme Court. Here are some of the statements that were made after the Iowa Supreme Court determined that the Iowa Marriage law was unconstitutional.
“I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and the definition of marriage should be left to the people and not to activist courts” — Mitt Romney
But it’s okay to use the federal courts to decide that the current system of choosing state Supreme Court justices should be overturned … because conservatives didn’t like their unanimous decision on gay marriage, right Mitt?
And as further proof that elections have consequences, there are several moves being contemplated by new Iowa house members.
First, there are several slightly different calls for the impeachment of the remaining four Iowa Supreme Court Justices. The speaker-elect has stated that he won’t stand in the way of such proceedings. The only good news on this issue is that the Iowa Senate is still controlled by the Democratic Party, and the Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has indicated that unless there is evidence of criminal conduct of malfeasance, the senate trial will not reach the required two-thirds majority for removal.
And it looks as if the Iowa Democratic Party is ready with some effective messaging if the Republicans do try to pursue the impeachment. They are already talking about how the Republicans are willing to avoid helping jobless Iowans in order to spend weeks in pursuing the impeachment of the Supreme Court Justices. In fact, there is some evidence that impeachment won’t be an issue in the next legislative session. I hope that is true.
All in all, this is just one more symptom of the craziness of the Republicans. They are going to great lengths to retaliate against the Iowa Supreme Court, that consisted of seven diverse people nominated by a non-partisan group and selected by various former governors of Iowa, both Democratic and Republican. All because they justices came to one unanimous decision that went against their viewpoint.