Iowa lawmakers go nuclear on state supremes

You guys make a constitutional ruling that goes against our puritanical beliefs?

We’ll show you.

Quick background, if you’re not up on Iowa politics and court decisions:

  • In 1998 the Iowa legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act, ruling marriage to be only between one man and one woman.

  • In 2009 a suit against the law reached the state Supreme Court. The 7 justices ruled unanimously that the law violated the state constitution … particularly the equal protection clause. In other words, the court ruled the constitution says you cannot deny same-sex couples the rights granted to opposite-sex couples.

  • Every election, Iowa requires a certain number of judges to stand for a retention vote. 2010 was one of those years. A number of conservative activists took that opportunity to rile up outrage about this decision, which resulted in the three Supreme Court justices on the ballot losing their jobs. (Interestingly, no other state judge was voted out, including the appellate judge who first ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act … and there was also the opportunity to call a constitutional convention on the 2010 ballot, which the activists [blinded by impotent rage, no doubt] didn’t seize on instead, which would have actually been a chance to, you know, change the constitution.)

  • And now we are here. A few newly-elected GOP state representatives have decided, in their infinite wisdom no doubt granted by God himself, to attempt to impeach the remaining four Supreme Court justices. The grounds? This is rich … violating the state constitution with their decision that found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Is Lewis Carroll writing our history or what? This is completely insane. Now, this impeachment effort will not succeed (the state Senate, which would require a two-thirds majority on impeachment, still has a small Democratic majority), but it will likely pass in the House. Jeepers! Can’t anybody in this state think straight? (Straight … heh … I guess thinking straight is the problem, isn’t it?)

Conservatives are pissed because they claim the court should have sent the DoMA back to the statehouse for revamping, instead of invalidating it and permitting same-sex marriages. They just don’t want to accept the Cliffs Notes version: Anything a straight Iowan has the right to do, a gay Iowan also has the right to do. That’s what our constitution says, and that’s what the justices affirmed.

Anyway … short version. Newly elected GOP state legislators in Iowa lose collective minds, start futile effort to deny rights from state constitution. Film at 11. (Actually 10 here in the Central Time Zone…)

Your State is still saner than Tennessee.

It could be worse, Uncle Jocko. You could be living in Nebraska, like me. shudders At least your state as SOME sane citizens in it!

(A teeny-tiny portion of Iowa actually sits on the western bank of the Missouri river, right near Epply Airport. Could you PLEASE send your Iowa National Guard unit there and forcibly annex Omaha? My city would fit in much better with Iowa than it currently does with the rest of Nebraska.)

My mom’s family hails from Des Moines. All my uncles and aunts (as decided unanimously by us, the saner cousins) are completely batshit crazy.

And THEY’RE democrats.

They probably accept that a gay Iowan man has the right to marry a woman and a gay Iowan woman has the right to marry a man, just like straight Iowans. Totally fair and constitutional.

Sorry, when I read “state supremes”, I got this image of Diana Ross and her cohorts slowly dancing and grooving behind the bench in their sequined gowns. Carry on.

Well, yeah, except a straight Iowa man actually has the right to marry a man. If he wanted to. Didn’t you ever see I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry?

Seriously, though, the court found the equal protection clause of the state constitution means the benefits of marriage are entitled to straight and gay Iowans alike, including the aspect of marrying a person of your choice. Hard to see how that gets people’s panties in a wad, at least to the point of OMG Teh Gayz Are Ruining Marriage For All Of Us!

Like I always wonder when I hear “One man, one woman!” … which one woman was it for Newt? John McCain? Rudy Giuliani?

Yeah, at this point if a politician has only been married to one woman, he’s a Mormon or gay.

State constitutions are pretty easy to amend. Why not just fix the constitution to say what you want it to say? Sure, the voting against the judges was useful to tell you the opinion of the voters, but it seems stupid to try and impeach the ones that the voters liked.

I live in Arkansas, where the definition of marriage is in the Constitution. For those of us who think it’s stupid, we have to go to the federal courts. And, so far, that’s been a pretty effective deterrent.

Here in Minnesota, one woman legislator has stopped any a ‘defense of Marriage’ bill for several years by promising to introduce a 2-word amendment to it (and she could probably get the Democratic votes to pass it):

That would outlaw divorce, and thus would probably lead to the voters rejecting it. (Sadly, the Republican takeover of the Minnesota Legislature probably means she could no longer get the votes to pass this).
P.S. Regarding those Iowa Supreme Court judges – don’t worry too much about them. They have all received job offers from major Iowa law firms, at much higher pay than their Supreme Court salaries.

And the retention vote itself may not stand up – it’s being challenged in court, since the ballots used violated a specific provision of the law.

Can’t do it, friend, on account of that the bulk of the operational elements of the Iowa National Guard are in Afghanistan.

The faction of the Republican legislators who are whooping it up for an impeachment consists of three first termers. Not a big segment of the membership. The thing that is disturbing is that the Republican leadership and the once and future Governor are doing just about nothing to quash these three irrationals. The nutcases position seems to be that the state supreme court has no power to nullify state legislation as a violation of the state constitution or by extension of the federal constitution.

We will see if the party leadership will let the resolution of impeachment get to the floor. My bet is that they will not but that the issue will be kept simmering on the back burner just to keep the issue alive for the next election.

In terms of practical considerations, the retention election reduced the IA Sup Ct to four justices, down from seven, and it will take a while for the three new guys to get on board. The business of the court will necessarily suffer with even longer delays in deciding cases and more cases deferred until there is a full court.

We have had an apolitical court since 1962. I don’t expect that to change but it is going to get ugly before the matter is resolved.

It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians apparently have no use for Christ’s teachings.

No doubt this is the wrong reason to toss a few judges, but in reality, I get a warm feeling inside when a judge gets booted.

Are the three judges Christian?

I trust you get the same warm and fuzzy feeling over the death of police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, aircrew and Marines? Jackass!

How is that remotely similar to a judge being removed or voted out of office?

They apparently have to pull an Old Yeller on the judges afterwards. Like getting removed from office is similar to a horse breaking a leg. I think the governor does it, but really, its for the judges own good. They’d be miserable if you let them live.

i just want to know…why should straight people be the only miserable ones?

Politicians don’t care about same-sex marriage. They care about getting votes and that involves finding touchy but not critical wedge issues and creating stories that will be picked up by the media about those issues.

Politicians are indifferent to resolving wedge issues: resolution leaves nothing to take credit for campaigning about.

Nor do they want to be seen to have the power to resolve wedge issues: then they’d have to do something with that power and that would annoy moderates and fence sitters, whose votes are important.

As to getting publicity for their efforts, I recently read a maxim that struck me as both very true and extremely annoying (IMHO), namely ‘‘Noah is a better story than flood control’’. Politicians need human interest angles, not dry constitutional drafting.

Organising a vote against, and impeaching, judges who made unpopular (amongst some) decisions is a good political tactics and a good story. It achieves nothing, it emphasises the “wrong” exercise of power by the judiciary and downplays the power of the legislature to correct those decisions. At the same time it creates a human interest story by achieving a pointless and ineffective victory over some named “bad guys”.

It’s all common stuff amongst the more machievellian breed of politician.

Um, why?