Following the ouster last year of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who legalized same-sex marriage in the state, social conservative groups are now working hard to overturn marriage equality in the Hawkeye State. One such organization is the Iowa Family Leader, led by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats.
Vander Plaats and the Iowa Family Leader are at the forefront of a misinformation campaign to support the anti-equality effort. Vander Plaats, currently on a 99-county tour intended to solicit support for the Family Leader and rally social conservatives, regularly compares gay marriage to polygamy and incest, telling audiences, “Why not open it up! Bisexual, polygamy, multiple women? Why not?” Earlier this year, Vander Plaats was caught on video railing against “absolute tolerance” during a campaign stop.
Most outlandish, however, was the Family Leader’s comparison on its website of homosexuality to secondhand cigarette smoke. (The Family Leader later removed the link to www.SecondHandEffects.com, a website which asserts that homosexuality reduces life expectancy by up to 35 years and promotes the idea that homosexuality is a curable disease.)
ThinkProgress spoke with Vander Plaats at a recent Family Leader campaign stop in Ames and asked the Iowa kingmaker about the claim that homosexuality is a public health risk akin to secondhand smoke. Though Vander Plaats had been loathe to discuss such matters publicly in the past, in this instance he did not mince words. After declaring that homosexuality is a “risky lifestyle,” Vander Plaats argued that “If we’re teaching the kids, ‘don’t smoke, because that’s a risky health style,’ the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle”:
KEYES: I know the Iowa Family Leader came under a little bit of controversy during the fall for one of the advertisements was talking about how homosexuality can almost even be seen — sorry, don’t think it was an advertisement — during a speech that homosexuality can almost even been seen as a public health risk.
VANDER PLAATS: It is a public health risk.
KEYES: A public health risk akin to, for instance, secondhand smoke and secondhand smoking?
VANDER PLAATS: When you take a look at it, this isn’t the Family Leader, but say the New York Health Department. They’ve put out an ad basically highlighting all the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle, that you’re this many times more to get this particular disease or this many times more to get this other type of disease. Now, they conclude with “practice safe sex.” But they’re almost taking our talking points. Because anybody, the Journal of Medicine will back us up on this, that this is a risky lifestyle, health risk lifestyle. If we’re teaching the kids, “don’t smoke, because that’s a risky health style,” the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle. That’s why I think we need to speak the truth once in a while.
In 2010, Vander Plaats and his associated groups played an integral role in removing three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. Now, social conservatives are setting their sights on impeaching the remaining four justices who ruled in the 2009 marriage case if they do not resign. Articles of impeachment have already been drafted by Republican state legislators.
During his stop in Ames, Vander Plaats told audience members that he had not yet decided if the Family Leader would formally support the impeachment proceedings. He did tell supporters, however, that same-sex marriage opponents had a strong case to impeach the remaining justices on “malfeasance” grounds.