Iowans disenfranchised by Democratic-controlled Senate

By Tom Quiner

Iowa judges imposed gay marriage on Iowa.

Iowa voters lashed back two years ago and threw out three of the judges involved in the decision.

A fourth judge involved in the decision is up for retention this November.

I provide this as background for out-of-state readers of Quiner’s Diner. An Iowa attorney, John Stewart, who also has law offices in California, offered a unique perspective to the story in this morning’s Des Moines Register. He contrasted events in California with Iowa:

“In 2008, the California Supreme Court, by a 4-3 decision, redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, striking a statute that defined marriage as one man and one woman. In a dissent, Justice Marvin Baxter wrote, “Nothing in our Constitution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old understanding of marriage… is no longer valid.… If there is to be a further sea change in the social and legal understanding of marriage itself, that evolution should occur by similar democratic means. The majority forecloses this ordinary democratic process, and, in doing so, oversteps its authority.

Justice Baxter’s words are applicable to the Varnum v.Brien case, in which the Iowa Supreme Court redefined marriage to include same-sex couples. Iowa and California have similar “equal protection” language in their constitutions, and many legal scholars argue that neither court was compelled to rule as they did, which effectively usurped the role of the legislatures and the people by arrogating to themselves the right to define marriage.”

At this point, the paths of Iowa and California diverged:

“The people of California eventually restored traditional marriage by voting for a constitutional amendment. Iowans, unlike Californians, don’t have a “direct democracy” process to put the marriage issue on the ballot. Instead, the voters here are beholden to the Legislature to allow a vote. Thus far, Iowans have been disenfranchised by a majority in the Senate that won’t allow the people a vote.

When Iowans voted in 2010 to unseat the three Varnum justices up for retention, it was an implied referendum. On Nov. 6, Justice David Wiggins is up for retention, and there is a call by certain conservative leaders to vote “no” on retaining him due to his participation in the Varnum decision.

In response, the Register’s editorial board and a recent Iowa View piece engaged in handwringing about how wrong it is to call for Wiggins’ ouster due to disagreement with one decision.

With a sleight of hand, the Register implies that “malfeasance” and similar reasons are the only legitimate ones to justify a “no” vote on retaining Justice Wiggins. The fact is, the Iowa Constitution neither imposes nor even suggests any such criteria as to how the people of Iowa should decide on judicial retention. Retention is left to the people to decide, for any reason the people choose.”

Thanks to Mr. Stewart for cogent letter on this critical subject to Iowa voters. Gay marriage, by necessity, is a politicized issue, because marriage is such a core institution to civil society. Democrat refusal to allow our elected legislators to even vote on the issue has effectively disenfranchised every single Iowa voter.

A vote against retaining David Wiggins is a necessary vote to give voice to Iowan citizens unhappy with the court’s inexplicable decision.


  1. Lisa Bourne on August 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Tom your post title should be, “Iowans disenfranchised by Democrat-controlled Senate.” Much of the time, and certainly in this case, democrats are anything but democratic.

    • quinersdiner on August 25, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Good point. I shall make the change.

  2. Bob Vance on August 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

    They are going to have a much harder time getting rid of this judge. The majority of people in Iowa either are for same-sex marriage or don’t care either way. The big negative impact that BVP and his followers predicted just didn’t happen.

    • Lisa Bourne on August 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      We’ll see in November.