NOM: Mission Overturn Iowa Marriage



Emboldened by Iowa voters’ removal of three state supreme court justices from the bench this week, the National Organization for Marriage is pushing forward on a constitutional amendment to overturn marriage equality in the state, despite strong opposition from Democratic leaders and a legislative process that would take years before such a measure could end up on the ballot.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said his group will remain an active lobby in the state, where Republicans took control of the house and made gains in the senate. Terry Branstad, the state’s incoming Republican governor, has said that voters should have the right to decide whether to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

NOM is among several out-of-state groups that spent more than $1 million combined on the Iowa for Freedom campaign to oust Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and justices David Baker and Michael Streit.

“There’s going to be a major push by activating folks to contact their legislators, and you’re going to see a massive grassroots campaign to encourage legislators to listen to the people,” Brown told The Advocate on Thursday. “The changes in Iowa were pretty dramatic. In the house, we’re going to be successful, as well as in the senate. One of the primary effects of this victory is that — I won’t say it’s made it easy, but it’s made it very clear that a constitutional amendment should be before Iowa voters.”

Brown wouldn’t specify whether NOM’s long-term involvement in the state would include another judicial retention vote in 2012 — this time for Justice David S. Wiggins, one of seven state supreme court justices who in 2009 voted unanimously that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. He also declined to say whether NOM would favor an amendment that both overturns the supreme court’s decision and bans civil unions or domestic partnerships.

“We’re focusing only on the marriage issue,” Brown said, though he asserted that “it’s no secret that advocates for same-sex marriage use civil unions to force same-sex marriage on states.”

NOM, which spent more than $600,000 in the Iowa campaign, is also focusing on two other states that saw big Republican gains and have not yet put marriage up for a popular vote: Minnesota, which has a statutory ban on gay marriage, and New Hampshire, where a pro–marriage equality law went into effect in January. NOM has been criticized by gay rights groups like Californians Against Hate and the Human Rights Campaign for a lack of donor transparency in their state battles, prompting investigations by state ethics commissions.