King, Vander Plaats sow seeds of bigotry

Editorial Board

The mere existence of Iowans for Freedom blows our minds. We have no idea what would possess folks to start an organization with the goal of rescinding equal legal treatment for a particular minority, especially under the pretense of judicial reform.

We’re not sure if we’re ashamed of or sorry for the folks endorsing these actions — they’ve either been completely misled regarding the intended usage of the retention vote, or knowingly choose to subsidize state-wide discrimination. Either way, there is no benevolent agenda behind what Bob Vander Plaats and Steve King are trying to accomplish — sowing the seeds of bigotry to reap the vote of their like-minded constituents.

Well, not Vander Plaats, nobody voted for him. Incumbent King, however, has recently sent letters to Iowa news organizations urging folks to oust the Iowa Supreme Court. Keep in mind, folks — the Supreme Court didn’t wave some magical wand and create new LGBT-friendly legislation. It upheld a district court ruling that said denying marriage licenses based on sexual orientation not only violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, but that doing so is of no significant governmental interest.

The oh-so-eloquent King remarked that this would turn Iowa into a “gay marriage mecca,” stating, “[When] judges usurp the letter of the Constitution and the Code of Iowa to suit their whim, they must be removed from office.”

He’s also used colorful language in describing our justices — “rogue,” “elitist” and “out of touch” — words we never hear from the right-wing spin machine.

The disservice here is that Iowa’s system is hardly broken, at least according to the experts. During a recent stop in Des Moines, former United State Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sang the praises of the system we use to appoint our judges. The retention vote exists as a means to counteract politicization or corruption of the bench — precisely what Vander Plaats and other LGBT rights opponents are doing with their crusade.

Thankfully, a who’s-who of Iowa politicians, including former Gov. Rob Ray (R), former Lt. Gov. Art Leu and Christie Vilsack have responded with Fair Courts for Us.

Group co-chairman, Republican Dan Moore, stated, “It’s important for people to understand that voting ‘yes’ to retain the justices is a vote to keep politics out of our courts. Iowa’s court system is respected and highly ranked nationally for its fairness and impartiality.”

Another group — Iowans for Fair & Impartial Courts — has also been formed. Spokesman Norman Kaunt had this to say:

“Iowa’s courts are rated one of the most fair and impartial in the country. This is the first time Iowa has had special interests and major campaign donations involved in a judicial retention election. This kind of campaign can push judges to consider the political implications of their rulings as opposed to limiting themselves to the application of the law to the facts of a case brought before them. This, in turn, can subvert citizens’ belief in whether judges can be fair and impartial.”

We recognize the need for equal rights among all persons, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, a point of view we share with the Iowa Supreme Court. We don’t see their ruling as an attempt to legislate from the bench, but rather to retain a semblance of equity within our state. We see no merit in the kind of discrimination pushed by social conservatives — Iowans for Freedom is hardly about freedom.

If they insist on continuing their charade, we’re more than happy to call it like it is. We sincerely hope you’ll join us on Nov. 2 in voting “yes” on retention.