By Evan Wolfson
The freedom to marry remains intact in Iowa. In fact, the freedom to marry in Iowa was not on the ballot this election cycle — and every poll leading up to the vote showed that Iowa voters have accepted the constitutional command of equality unanimously upheld by their state supreme court in 2009 and ranked overturning it at the bottom of a range of concerns on their minds.
Still, Election Day in Iowa saw a vicious attack from some of the nation’s most notorious antigay organizations and leaders. Politicizing for the first time ever a low-attention, normally routine down-ballot vote regarding whether to “retain” three of the justices, these groups flooded the state with an unprecedented amount of money — more than $700,000 — targeting judges who, out of respect for the judicial selection system, did not campaign for retention or run ads defending themselves. Sadly, the three went down.
At the same time as they were warping the retention vote, NOM (the so-called National Organization for Marriage) and its fellow antigay groups (Focus on the Family and American Family Association) also went after Iowa attorney general Tom Miller, who was attacked by his opponent for not challenging the ruling that led to the freedom to marry. Miller won reelection because, along with his record over seven four-year terms of service as attorney general, he could defend himself against baseless attacks in a political campaign, unlike the three justices. And, by a two-thirds majority, Iowans also rejected the “Call the Convention” campaign that would have initiated a constitutional convention at which the antigays could pursue a change in Iowa’s constitution that would end the freedom to marry in the state.
In this intense and angry election, Iowa’s voters were not voting on marriage or on gays. Still, as Carolyn Jenison, executive director of the state LGBT group One Iowa, sees it, “three courageous justices who recognized the freedom to marry in Iowa fell victim to a perfect storm of electoral discontent and out-of-state special interest money.”
Like many state legislatures this election, Iowa’s house has now flipped to Republican control, and the Democratic margin in the senate has decreased substantially — not because of the electorate's feelings about gay people or marriage, but in a way that requires vigilance. It will fall to senate majority leader Mike Gronstal, a true champion, to hold the line against efforts to railroad through a constitutional amendment stripping the freedom to marry from gay couples. And One Iowa will need support from all of us committed to defending liberty and justice in Iowa against the out-of-state attacks that will again swamp the state in an effort to advance an attack amendment aimed at undoing the freedom to marry.
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