News » Politics

Iowa Keeps Wiggins on Supreme Court, Accepts Gay Marriage

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Nov 7, 2012
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With the move to keep Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins on the bench, voters made a statement about their willingness to accept same-sex marriage. Wiggins was the fourth Iowa Supreme Court justice to stand for a retention vote since seven unanimously ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009.

"As I understand the numbers, I think we did get a decisive win, that will hopefully prevent future challenges to judges," Iowa State Bar Association spokesperson Cynthia Moser told the Des Moines Register on Nov. 6.

Wiggins received 55 percent of the vote, enough of a majority to stay on the high court. Critics had argued that Wiggins and the other justices employed constitutional overreach in the 2009 ruling of Varnum v. Brien.

Also facing retention votes were Justices Edward Mansfield, Thomas Waterman and Bruce Zager, all of who won by a healthy margin. In 2010, three former justices -- Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit -- lost a retention vote in 2010, after socially conservative Iowans and the National Organization for Marriage convinced voters that the ruling on same-sex marriage warranted their dismissal.

But Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowans for Freedom committee, which spearheaded efforts to oust Wiggins, told the Des Moines Register that the small margin of retention was "not a great validation for Justice Wiggins."

"With the retention of Justice Wiggins, we sent a strong message to Mr. Vander Plaats and his friends at the National Organization for Marriage: Iowans are proud of our state that values equal protection and all families."

It also raises questions about the 2016 retention votes for the final three justices in that 2009 court case; Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel.

But advocates like LGBT advocacy group One Iowa said that the margin of votes was enough.

"Justice Wiggins withstood the attacks by anti-equality forces in this state and was retained by the voters," said One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing, who worked to keep Wiggins on the bench. "With the retention of Justice Wiggins, we sent a strong message to Mr. Vander Plaats and his friends at the National Organization for Marriage: Iowans are proud of our state that values equal protection and all families."

The vote was also seen as a barometer of the state’s growing acceptance of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

"Iowans have made a strong statement for judicial independence and refused to let politics get in the way of judges doing their duty to uphold the law," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, in a statement.

"Right-wing groups trying to exact political retribution on judges should learn their lesson. Marriage equality remains the law of the land in Iowa and judges will continue to do their jobs," said Griffin.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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