Mission Accomplished for NOM’s “Judge Bus”: Same-Sex Marriage Judges Ousted


Bob Vander Plaats, a social conservative who led the movement against the reelection of three judges who ruled for legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa last April.

Despite the fact that more LGBT candidates than ever before were elected yesterday, yesterday’s election results conversely brought some ominous news for  same-sex marriage proponents.

Three Iowa supreme court judges who became the target of a conservative campaign against their reelection after ruling in favour of gay marriage last April have been voted out. It’s the first time ever that an Iowa judge has failed to be reelected.

The campaign against their reelection included a so-called “anti-judge” bus tour, organized in part by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the lovely anti-marriage-equality organization you’ll most likely remember for their unintentionally hilarious  “Gathering Storm” commercial (which spawned many parodies) and their “One Man, One Woman” bus tour.

The failure to re-elect these three Iowa judges sends a scary and strong message about the viability, or lack thereof, of pro-marriage equality ideals and rulings in today’s political context. One of the conservative leaders against the judges, Bob  Vander Plaats, has openly acknowledged that he is trying to send a message about the accountability of judges to “the people” in a direct attempt to politicize matters of justice and equality.  Not only can judges redefine marriage, he says, “they can redefine who should pay taxes and how much, who can own and carry a gun and whose private property rights get protected — or do not.”

I’m personally terrified and saddened by the choice of Iowa voters to buy into the homophobic fear-mongering, and am hoping they haven’t begun a larger trend. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin predicts that “the movement to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by Congressional vote may be another casualty of last night’s election.” Let’s all redouble our efforts to make sure that’s one prediction that doesn’t come true.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    This is really upsetting news that I didn’t hear anywhere else last night. Thanks for highlighting it.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    When people are afraid, fundamentalism or at least basic conservatism is their default setting. A weary, angry electorate is tired of economic weakness and a lack of jobs. People don’t usually think rationally when thinking in such a fashion, so they’re inclined to lash out at whomever they can easily blame. The truth is that there isn’t an easy explanation for the average voters, since these are paradoxical times. But when there isn’t a target available, people will make their own simply to have one.

  • nicolechat

    To try and make humour out of a seriously distressing situation: Am I the only person who thinks this every time I see this organization’s acronym?

    “I am gay rights monster! I eat away at equality! NOM NOM NOM NOM – yummy in my tummy!”

    • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

      I, too, read “NOM” as an omonomopoeia. I sadly don’t have a good nom pun for them yet, but this quote seems a propos:

      NOM: “I’m bigger than you. I’m higher in the food chain. Get. In. Mah. Belleh!”

      …which is another way of saying “I want you inside me,” but I’m pretty sure most of NOM is against that sort of thing.

      • nicolechat

        “Omonomopoeia” and Austin Powers reference and innuendo all rolled into so few sentences? Triple win. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/popeda/ David

    I am an Iowan that voted to retain the judges…its is simply unacceptable. Everyone I know here is shocked and outraged.

  • rebeccajk42

    The really weird thing is that in addition to these 3 judges being up for retention, voters also got the 1-in-every-10-years chance to call a Constitutional convention. This would make it much easier for them to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Yet, that measured failed, by a lot.

    So the same people that voted to oust these judges out of anger for their decision about gay marriage also voted to not take up the opportunity to make it easier to change the constitution to ban gay marriage.

    Now, while obviously I’m happy about that particular result, it just highlights that people have absolutely no idea what the heck they are doing when they are voting. It’s really disturbing.

    • http://feministing.com/members/iowacity/ Mariel

      This, this and this. If anything, it shows how Van Der Plaat’s anti-gay bus tour was an extension of his (and his associates’) huge, ponderous egos and their hate-fueled PR machine–not a determined, specific effort to amend the Iowa constitution to define marriage as straight-only.

      People really, truly have no idea what they’re doing when they vote. The results of our elections seem almost accidental.

  • http://feministing.com/members/riklittle/ Rik Little

    The judiciary must be abolished altogether. Don’t people realize that everybody should be allowed to get married. These are hard jobless times and all the real money is in DIVORCE. Without the raw material of marrieds there will be less ans less divorce. Good riddance judges.

  • honeybee

    I’ll never understand why Americans VOTE on judges. That’s the worst idea ever. How is someone supposed to be impartial if they have to worry about re-elected?

    Besides if a judge is doing their job properly they rarely use any of their own judgement/morals/etc. anyways – all they do is uphold and interpret the laws that are given to them. Personal opinions don’t change the law.

    • http://feministing.com/members/lmallen87/ Lindsay

      Well, we aren’t voting for the judges as… only their retainment. They are appointed by the governor… I would say hopefully Culver appoints some more judges before his term is up now, but Branstad actually did appoint one of the judges who was just ousted (Marsha Ternus in 1993). But yes, it does seem odd that the public gets to vote for their retainment. And THEN, the new judges whom are appointed will be up for retainment next year, I believe. The three judges who were ousted were toted as “activist” judges and that they were not impartial by VanderPlaats’ smear campaign, even though they were clearly just upholding what is BLATANTLY stated in Iowa’s constitution about all individuals having the same rights and privileges under the law (that’s not quoted, but pretty darn close). Since, you know, the government and religion are supposed to be separate, that only makes sense. No big deal.