The National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and the American Family Association plan to spend around a million dollars to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted in April 2009 to legalize same-sex marriage in the Nov. 2 judicial retention elections.
Voters will have the ability to vote yes or no for keeping Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and justices David Baker and Michael Streit on the court. Democratic Gov. Chet Culver would name their replacements should they lose.
“Considering the judges forced this on Iowa, we felt there needed to be a campaign not to retain them,” says National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, whose organization has contributed $250,000 to the effort.
The group plans to spend a total of close to half a million dollars by Election Day targeting these justices and members of the state legislature who support the decision.
The National Organization for Marriage’s contribution matched an initial contribution from the American Family Association, which helped launch this effort under the guidance of former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats and the Iowa Family Policy Center.
Focus on the Family’s 501(c)4 group, CitizenLink, plans to contribute six figures to the effort and has been running radio ads throughout Iowa to convince to vote against retaining the justices.
“Justices can’t get out in front of the electorate,” says Focus on the Family Senior Vice President Tom Minnery. “For the justices to say that Iowa law must recognize same-sex marriage after so many decades of never finding such a thing indicates that they’re taking liberties with the Iowa state constitution.”
Iowa voters have never voted to oust a supreme court justice since the state began putting them up for a vote in 1962, but the involved groups express optimism.
A Des Moines Register poll found 44 percent of Iowans would vote to keep the three justices and 40 percent would vote to throw out the three, while 16 percent indicated they would retain some.
“Those poll numbers are stunning,” Vanderbilt University law professor Brian T. Fitzpatrick told The Des Moines Register. “It is virtually unheard of for a judge to lose a retention race.”
Analysts say the outcome will depend on who gets their voters to the polls. A survey of voting records in the last two non-presidential elections found only 60 percent of Iowa voters cast votes to retain justices and appeals court judges.
Defeating the justices would not reverse the ruling, but it would send a strong message around the country, Brown says.
“Ultimately, we want to pass a state constitutional amendment in Iowa,” Brown says.
Same-sex marriage defenders such as the Iowa Interfaith Alliance have condemned the effort as “an attempt to hijack Iowa’s courts.”
Brown’s group also plans on spending money to influence gubernatorial and legislative races in New Hampshire where it hopes to repeal that state’s same-sex marriage law.
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