Anti-gay activist Bob Vander Plaats, who was labeled the Iowa GOP’s “kingmaker” after Republican presidential candidates lined up to pay homage to him, was the architect of the successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices, and he’s now spearheading a new effort to remove a fourth justice. All four of the justices Vander Plaats opposes joined the state supreme court’s unanimous opinion recognizing that the Iowa Constitution does not permit marriage discrimination against gay couples.
At a rally last month, Vander Plaats explained why he is so offended by the targeted justices’ application of the state constitution. And then he compared marriage equality to slavery:
We must get back to the constitution. . . . It is the court that should be independent — free of politics — to uphold the constitution, not to trample on the constitution, not to insert politics in the constitution, and not to run the leftist agenda through the court system. That’s not their role.
The Iowa State Bar Association, they’ll tell you — they’ll say “Bob, this is only one opinion. It’s only one opinion. You can’t be that upset at a court because of one opinion.” One opinion: Dred Scott — blacks are property. One opinion: Roe v. Wade — we’ve killed sixty million babies off a court’s opinion. One opinion, the Varnum opinion and you are now seeing same-sex marriage infiltrate this state. One opinion, where a court legislates from the bench, when a court executes from the bench, when a court tries to amend the constitution from the bench, and when a court tries to do that, it is our responsibility as the people — the final arbitrators — to kick them off the bench.
Vander Plaats’ attempt to compare extending the blessings of liberty to all couples with a decision which claimed black people are “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” is obviously the most glaring part of his speech. But he should not be let off the hook for claiming that eliminating marriage equality in Iowa would remove politics from the state judiciary or “uphold the constitution.” In reality, the polar opposite is true.
The Iowa Constitution speaks with far more expansive language and with far greater clarity than the United States Constitution on the subject of equality. It provides that “[a]ll laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” Marriage discrimination grants marriage rights to straight citizens which do not equally belong to gay citizens. It is not at all surprising that the Iowa justices unanimously reached the decision they did in Varnum — the Iowa Constitution is unambiguous that marriage discrimination is not allowed.
So when Vander Plaats tries to take revenge against these justices by tossing them out of office, he is the one who injecting politics into the constitution and he is the one who is trying to run his agenda through the court system. Vander Plaats’ campaign is nothing less than an effort to make judges too scared to follow the law when the law conflicts with conservative views.