Iowa Ousts Three Judges Who Approved Gay Marriage

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LGBT Advocates Blast Special Interests' Campaign To Intimidate Judges Nationwide

The huge shift to the right in yesterday's election probably doesn't bode well for any LGBT-friendly legislation coming down the pipeline.

But perhaps the harshest rebuke of those who support LGBT rights came from Iowa yesterday: voters ousted the three Iowa State Supreme Court justices who decided in favor of gay marriages last year.

San Francisco's Castro Theatre hosted a popcorn party to celebrate back in 2009 to celebrate the justices' decision, who ruled that a law barring same-sex marriage violated the Midwestern state's constitution. Yet after a huge campaign largely funded by out-of-state anti-gay marriage organizations, voters decided the ruling wasn't worth celebration, but censure. It's the first time a judge hasn't been retained since 1962 when the state first instituted the retention voting system, according to the Des Moines Register.

The retention challenge triggered a battle never seen in Iowa's judicial history. Television, radio and Internet ads portrayed the justices as both activists and referees. Robo-calls urged a "no" vote. U.S. Rep. Steve King embarked on a statewide bus tour to rally "no" voters.
Given that booting the judges doesn't stop gay marriage in the state - a constitutional amendment would be necessary for that - gay marriage advocates say this campaign was about something much more sinister: an attempt to intimidate judges across the country into ruling against gay marriage.

The Courage Campaign says the National Organization for Marriage spent $600,000 on TV ads and a 45-county bus tour to campaign against the justices.

"The National Organization for Marriage has funded an ongoing attack on the growing judicial consensus on LGBT equality," Courage Campaign spokesman Todd Stenhouse told SF Weekly. "There's an overwhelming message that NOM's brand of homophobia is rejected by the electorate. So now they're going to the other options of let's intimidate as many judges as we can. The is what Al Capone does, not a credible political organization."

This isn't just crazy conspiratorial talk. The NOM's president Brian Brown said this was about sending a message to judges outside of Iowa on the radio last month:
 
"Many people that have commented on what we're going through right now, especially with the Proposition 8 case in California, are looking at the Iowa judicial retention election - and even though there are many important elections about the country - they're actually saying this is the most important election because it will send a clear signal to the Supreme Court and other judges that they don't have the right to make up the law out of thin air. Their job is to interpret the law, it is not to be out robed masters and judicial activists imposing their will on the rest of us.

And so if the people of Iowa do what I think they'll do and stand up and remove these judges, there will be reverberations throughout the country all the way to the United States Supreme Court."

Time will only tell what affect if any this may have here in California.

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