The Culture War Rages On
By Doug Patton
November 15, 2010
Amid last week's Election Day hype, a little-noticed grassroots earthquake began in the heartland. Three Iowa Supreme Court justices were tossed out of office by the voters. Why? Because last year the three voted to change the definition of marriage in the Hawkeye State in direct contradiction of the will of the people.
Judicial fiat is the favored method of circumventing voters on this issue. Not once have the people of this country ever voted to legalize same-sex marriage. In fact, whenever the issue has appeared on a ballot initiative, it has been flatly rejected.
In 1996, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allows states to opt out of recognizing same-sex "marriages" performed in other states. A majority of the states have since passed their own DOMA laws, the toughest being a 2000 amendment to the Nebraska Constitution. That year, 71 percent of statewide voters agreed not only to ban the recognition of gay marriage but also its legal equivalents, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
The "movement" to redefine marriage first won a judicial victory in 1993 when homosexuals petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to allow them to marry one another. The court ruled in their favor — unless a "compelling state interest" could be shown in restricting the institution to opposite-sex couples. The Hawaii Constitution was subsequently amended to preserve the restriction.
A similar 1998 court decision in Alaska led to an even stronger constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In 1999, the Vermont State Supreme Court held that the state must extend to same-sex couples the same benefits that married couples receive.
Then came the infamous 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision, wherein the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that sodomy was a constitutional right. In a stinging minority dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that this decision would open the door to same-sex marriage.
Later that same year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that excluding same-sex couples from the benefits of civil marriage violated that state's constitution. In February 2004, that court further ruled that a state law permitting civil unions would not be sufficient to address the issue, and on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the Union to legalize same-sex "marriage."
The flood gates were now open, just as Scalia had predicted. In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that same-sex couples were entitled to all the rights and benefits of marriage. The New York courts have decreed that homosexual marriages performed in other states or countries must be recognized in the Empire State.
In 2008, the Supreme Courts of California and Connecticut both ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. In November of that year, California voters overturned their Supreme Court's ruling by amending their state constitution to declare that marriage was between one man and one woman. On August 4, 2010, the courts overruled the voters by declaring the ballot initiative unconstitutional!
This brings us back to Iowa. In 2009, all seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court arrogantly told the people of that state that their DOMA, passed in the late 1990s by their legislature and signed into law by their governor was — you guessed it — unconstitutional.
What is a voter to do? Last Tuesday, Iowa voters let their judicial masters know what they would do. The sensible citizens of the Hawkeye State said enough is enough and removed the three Supremes who were up for a retention vote.
In the words of Iowa's Steve King, who has fought for traditional marriage both as a state senator and now as a U.S. Representative, "The United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Iowa were both designed so that, if any branch of government gets out of hand, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."
Amen, Congressman! The people have had enough of judicial activism, and the other members of Iowa's Supreme Court — indeed, all our courts — should take heed: if you want a culture war, the voters will bring the battle right to your doorstep via the ballot box.
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.