Thursday, November 04, 2010

Iowa Set for SSM Fight

Quick now, name the state with the motto, "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"!

The answer is Iowa. Tuesday its voters seemed oblivious to that in voting three judges off their Supreme Court bench for their daring to prize the liberties and rights of homosexuals. In last year's unanimous ruling, all nine justices ruled that forbidding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Iowa votes on retain judges and a simple majority keeps or tosses them.

The Des Moines Register reports the slight majority to remove them was a rural v. urban divide.

Iowa had a clear conflict between its comity requirement (595.20) accepting marriages legal in other states (like that MA) and its gender/age statute (595.2) based on the Defense of Marriage Act, stating "Only a marriage between a male and a female is valid." As in other states on this issue and different direct conflicts, the justices didn't have a lot of choice. Liberty, rights, and well, the law, was right in their faces, as reflected in their decision.

As befitting judicial demeanor, the three to be removed (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Associate Justices Michael Streit and David Baker) issued a statement. The only hint of negativity was a mention of "an unprecedented attack by out-of-state special interest groups" in the months before the this vote, which they in Iowa call the merit selection system.

Back here in Blue Massachusetts, putting high-court judges up for recall seems dreadfully political and likely to prevent impartiality on the bench. Poll based legal reasoning appears far too political.

Regardless, the trio concludes uncontentiously with:
Finally, we hope Iowans will continue to support Iowa’s merit selection system for appointing judges. This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else. Ultimately, however, the preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.

Coming up looks like an embittering battle worthy of our own agon here against overturning our Supreme Judicial Court ruling affirming same-sex marriage. The Iowa Senate is alone in an equally split (25-25) Senate against Republican House and Governor. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal says there'll be no vote on the subject. As the Register reports:
Gronstal believes the right thing means protecting the civil rights of gays and lesbians. He reaffirmed Wednesday that he won't bow to pressure, no matter how nasty it gets.

"The easy political thing for me to do years ago would have been to say, 'Oh, let's let this thing go. It's just too political and too messy,' " Gronstal said. "What's ugly is giving up what you believe in, that everybody has the same rights. Giving up on that? That's ugly."
Those not so hot on separation of powers and inclined to limit rights to selected groups crowed about the people speaking, while LGBT-rights advocates decried politicizing the courts.

In an amusing thread lost in the rural fury, existing Dem. Gov. Chet Culver is likely to be the one to appoint three replacement judges, not erstwhile and resurrected Gov. Terry Branstad. The latter wants a DOMA-style constitutional amendment.

Iowa was the third state in the nation to go for marriage equality. Those who respect the state motto are in for a fight on maintaining liberties and rights.

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