Joe Solmonese: NOM’s Iowa campaign against judicial independence

October 27, 2010 at 8:23 am 29 comments

Cross-posted at the Huffington Post

By Joe Solmonese, HRC President

In the final week of a contentious midterm election when voters are understandably focused on pocket-book issues, a collection of anti-gay groups and politicians are crisscrossing Iowa in a bus tour aimed at ousting three state Supreme Court justices who took a particular view of the state constitution.

Funded by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council (FRC), this campaign has nothing to do with Des Moines, Dubuque or Waterloo. Instead, it’s all about sending a chilling warning to state justices sitting everywhere else: either enforce your state constitution in the same, rigid ideological way as we do, or we’re coming to get you.

The wrath of NOM is notable: it’s already spent over $500,000 on what is usually a sleepy retention election and may spend even more before election day. This high-octane effort to knock off three justices, centers on the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous 2009 decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry. The well-reasoned and deliberative decision was entirely consistent with Supreme Court rulings in California, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is also unlikely to ever be revisited by the court, making this campaign even more transparent for what it really is.

Frankly, this campaign is more wild west vigilante than democracy in action. The three judges under fire in NOM-financed television ads refuse to mount a counter attack believing it sends the wrong message to litigants who may appear in court before them.

It also disregards a scrupulous selection process based on merit, not politics or ideology. Iowa judges are chosen after review by the Judicial Nominating Commission which forwards qualified candidates to the governor for appointment. Newly appointed judges are immediately seated and hear cases for at least a year until the next retention election. Once “retained” by voters, they serve an eight year term.

Since the merit selection and retention system was established in 1962, only four judges have been thrown out, and none of them from the state’s highest court. The system was designed to flag gross misconduct, not punish judges for one ruling.

But that was before outside groups weighed in with their money and their fear-mongering. To read the announcement of NOM’s bus tour, voters are left to believe that unless these three judges get the boot, everything is up for grabs, from Iowans’ hunting rifles to their very right to vote.

Is it worth restating that the state Supreme Court’s decision on marriage was unanimous? But that’s a small point to 2012 presidential hopeful Rick Santorum who’s flying out for the Iowa tour. Santorum’s homophobic views are well documented; he’s compared homosexuality to bestiality, incest and adultery. This is clearly his opportunity to travel around a presidential primary state while burnishing his right-wing credentials.

Process and precedent also didn’t deter the American Family Association (AFA) from being an early campaign backer. The AFA is perhaps best known for boycotting Disney for eight years claiming it promoted a gay agenda. It moved onto the auto industry in 2005, boycotting Ford Motor Company because it advertised in gay periodicals.

It makes sense, doesn’t it, that organizations bent on intimidating businesses would be game to take on judges?

Like most people, I want to live in a country where judges look at the case before them and apply past precedent and sound legal principals to the grey areas. Like former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, appointed by President Reagan and viewed as a moderate, I’m terrified of a judicial system hijacked by well-heeled ideologues, on the left or the right, unhappy with a single decision.

What’s happening this election cycle in Iowa has nothing to do with the Hawkeys and everything to do with threatening judicial independence everywhere. And it’s about right-wing, anti-gay groups like NOM, FRC and AFA getting a notch in their belt by attacking judges who are too principled to fight back.

Entry filed under: NOM Exposed, NOM Tour Tracker-Iowa, Right-wing.

The cost of NOM’s Iowa crusade against equality? Half a million dollars. NOM’s Brian Brown: “A man can’t nurture and take care of a baby”

29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard A. Walter (soon to be Walter-Jernigan)  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Will catch up later.

    Reply
    • 2. StraightForEquality  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:33 am

      Me too!

      Reply
      • 3. Ronnie  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:55 am

        Me three!…..<3…Ronnie

        Reply
        • 4. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

          Me four!

          Reply
          • 5. Sagesse  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

            And so on and so forth.

          • 6. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:43 am

            Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

          • 7. fiona64  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

            “House, house, house! Always with you it is about house!”

            (We re-watched “The King and I” two nights ago.)

            Love,
            Fiona

          • 8. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

            Love that show!

          • 9. JonT  |  October 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

            Yep…

  • 10. Kevin S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:28 am

    What they’ll probably wind up doing with this stunt is putting an end to retention votes and leaving impeachment as the only method for removing state judges, just as it is on the federal level. Constitutional amendments, judicial retention… individual states put way too much up to a popular vote. Bleh.

    Reply
    • 11. Rhie  |  October 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Oh I agree. WA has two measures about taxes on the ballot. No on the high earning income tax means the state has no money for health care or education. Yes on the referendum that puts all taxes up to a vote means we end up in a huge mess. That was the referendum that screwed California.

      There is just no way that a plurality of people can make an informed decision. That is why we have legislatures.

      Reply
  • 12. Bennett  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Of course I hope it fails, but I hope they blow their whole budget on the effort. Efforts that serve no other purpose than to settle a chill over the rest of the judicial system I think will either fail outright, or the effect will be minimal outside of the empact on the 3 targeted judges. These judges would have to be replaced. Does NOM have another plan to influence that selection. If not, then this is truly a merry waste of resources, go NOM go! I mean spend NOM spend. (Hopefully some of your expenditures will help to stimulate the economy)

    Reply
  • 13. Tuffwreslr  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I have to say that this is blatant and disgusting. Bullies at their finest.

    Reply
  • 14. Alan E.  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Just got in. I’m still reading many of the briefs and trying to work and read another 2 books at the same time.

    Reply
    • 15. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

      Let us know how that works for you! I’d love to be able to work, read briefs and read another two books at the same time.

      Reply
      • 16. Alan E.  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

        I haven’t even started “The Authoritarian” I keep reading about.

        Reply
        • 17. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:42 am

          I have “The Authoritarians” in audiobook format. Maybe I can listen to it while simultaneously reading two books and briefs and working.

          Reply
          • 18. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

            LOL!

        • 19. Felyx  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

          So well worth the read Alan! I really can’t recommend it enough for those who truly want to understand why these authoritarian personality people make such crazy and useless decisions and how they are able to pass blatantly discriminatory laws that can be used to harm even them!

          Thank god that NOM is spending it’s money like this… there are some truly scary things that can be done with that kind of money which are far more legal and lethal! (Won’t dare mention it here as I consider some of these ideas so easy and so devastating that merely mentioning them could bring us to very serious risk!) So long as they are ‘spinning their wheels’ like this I feel relatively safe… sure it is wasted money, but it is fairly harmless (relative to what I consider serious harm) and actually serves to just create support for ourselves and problems for them (like the 501(c)3 issue that I hope gets decided rationally).

          The authoritarian book goes into how the thought process works (or rather doesn’t work) for these people and why they tend to shoot themselves in the foot constantly. So long as they are mostly hurting themselves (as in the case of NOM) I feel like we can weather the storm. god Forbid! any of them should get a clue how to do some real damage!

          Felyx

          Reply
  • 20. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

    ditto! all of it! P8TT and community gives such great materials, book references, etc to read! Thank you all! subscribing….

    Reply
    • 21. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:15 am

      @ Alan for above comment

      Reply
  • 22. nightshayde  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Are there any (theoretically) reliable polls out there to let us know if NOM’s smear campaign is working?

    Reply
    • 23. nightshayde  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:35 am

      Are there any (theoretically) reliable polls out there to let us know if NOM’s smear campaign is working?

      I just (sort of) found my answer. It looks like polling is a tossup right now. Those favoring retention are ahead of those opposing it, but there are a lot of undecideds (more than enough to make up the difference) — and there are apparently many people who don’t choose to vote either way on the retention thing.

      Reply
      • 24. Ann S.  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

        Ugh on the no voting.

        My FIL and MIL recently moved to California, and FIL called to ask me some questions about the ballot. He wanted to know where to find more info on the judges up for retention (about a dozen). I told him I didn’t know, I always vote “yes”.

        He likes to research everything to death and didn’t really care for that answer, so hemmed about not voting. He reasoned that as long as they don’t get more “noes” than “yesses”, they’ll be retained.

        I countered by reiterating that I always vote “yes” and that, if they don’t get more “yesses” than “noes”, then they will, by definition, get more “noes” than “yesses”.

        (Yes, I know, there is an infinitesimal chance that they will be exactly even. Never seen it happen.)

        Vote! It matters! (I know, I’m preaching to the choir here.)

        Reply
        • 25. Rhie  |  October 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm

          Yes it does! My family always had a saying: Don’t vote? Don’t complain!

          If you don’t participate in the process you really can’t complain if it doesn’t work the way you want.

          Reply
  • 26. Sagesse  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Apologies if this has already been posted.

    NOM Loses Fight To Secretly Support Anti-Gay Marriage Carl Paladino

    http://ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=6711&MediaType=1&Category=26

    Reply
  • 27. Kathleen  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

    An interesting article on Judge Virginia Phillips, the federal judge in LCR v USA (DADT case):
    http://tinyurl.com/29yd5cr

    (and subscribing)

    Reply
  • 28. ChrisB  |  October 27, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I don’t know Iowa law, but does anyone know what happens to the judgeships if any or all don’t get retained? Could the Nominating Commission and the governor simply appoint them again for another year, or are they barred forever from being seated on the SC?

    Reply
  • 29. Michael  |  October 27, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    This is another example of intimidation and bullying by strident anti-gay pressure groups who seek to impose their “religious beliefs” on the rest of us. They openly brag about this being a way to “send a message” to judges across the country. Real Christians don’t revile, intimidate and bully. They use love to get their message out and influence others–something this angry group of extremists know nothing about. They are influenced and led by the Prince of Darkness which means they can never win the “culture war” they began.

    Reply

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