Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Anti-judge bus tour dwarfed by pro-retention rally
CEDAR RAPIDS — If event attendees are any indication of ballot totals following midterm elections Tuesday, three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for a retention vote next week will overwhelmingly maintain their seats.
At least 150 people filed through security at the Linn County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon in order to stand in support of the justices, who have been targeted by several national anti-gay groups for their unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.
An hour later and five blocks east, supporters of the movement to oust the justices numbered 20 — and were nearly matched in numbers by counter-demonstrators. Supporters on both sides view the conflict as fundamental to the fabric of an ideal society, albeit for differing reasons, and emotions ran high when those of opposing views met face to face.
A battle for values
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, who rallied Cedar Rapids attendees to vote against judicial retention in an event organized by the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, told anti-abortion activists in the immediate aftermath of the court’s 2009 decision that if the institution of marriage wasn’t maintained as being between only one man and one woman that other social conservative values would also be decimated. Speaking exclusively with The Iowa Independent following Wednesday’s event, King reaffirmed those statements and expanded on why he believes the institution of marriage is so important.
“I think that if we can’t defend marriage, that it becomes very hard to defend life,” King said. “Marriage is the crucible by which we pour all of our values and pass them on to our children, and that is how the culture is renewed each time. So, if we lose marriage — for instance, if our children are raised in warehouses, so to speak. There have been civilizations that have tried to do that. The Spartans did that. They took the children away and taught them to be warriors. It’s a good way to defend a country, but not much of a way to run a civilization.
“So, I’m afraid if that happened — if we lose the marriage, we lose the home, we lose the nuclear family then we can’t teach our values. We won’t be able to teach our faith. We won’t be able to teach life. We won’t be able to teach our Constitutional values either. That’s why I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult to defend life.”
With a nod to the group of people still gathered nearby in defense of the Supreme Court justices, King added: “Go over and talk to the counter-protesters. Ask how many of them are pro-life. I’d be surprised if there are very many.”
While speaking to those gathered in Green Square Park, King made the case that the justices should be removed because they “legislated from the bench” when they over-turned legislation that he as a state senator helped author to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
“The voice of the people needs to be represented through your duly elected legislative branch — that’s the constitutional republic that is Iowa and is the United States of America,” King said. “The voice of the people was reflected in Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act. Gov. [Terry] Branstad signed that piece of legislation in 1998, and it became the law of the land. We wondered then why we even needed to bother because no one then even questioned what marriage was. But now we have a rogue court that has gone outside the limitations of the Constitution and decided that they are going to impose special rights on people based upon what they claim they do. I’m here to tell you that no court can confer special rights on anyone. … This court has reached outside its bounds.”
Randy Crawford of Iowa City said he intends to vote for the removal of the justices because he is concerned about the judiciary overstepping its reach and also about the propensity of homosexuals within his community.
“My primary reason for being here is because I believe the Supreme Court should not be legislating from the bench. But I also believe that homosexuality is bad thing,” he said. “It used to be useful when we were cavemen and we needed people to guard the caves full of women and children. If I’m a guy out hunting, I want to leave someone back at the cave tending to my wife and kids, and I don’t want a normal guy having that kind of access to my wife and kids. So, in our evolution, you can see that there use to be a utility for homosexuality, but that was when we were cavemen and we aren’t cavemen anymore. So, homosexuality is obsolete.”
Although Crawford believes that homosexuality is no longer needed by modern mankind, he brushes off the idea that he automatically dislikes people who are gay. He says he believes that private lives are just that and that he took a “live and let live” attitude until he discovered something more sinister at work.
“If people want to behave like the homosexuals I knew in high school, college and so-forth then it isn’t a problem,” he said. “But you can see what happens when homosexuals get power — like in Iowa City. They are running rampant. They are doing vicious stuff. … Read Shakespeare’s Othello. Basically the homosexuals are like the Iago figure.”
Crawford said the “nasty homosexual network” in Iowa City is “like conspiracy and racketeering,” and ultimately, “the Iowa Supreme Court should not be running interference for rackets.”
A battle for freedom
Don Rowen, a former leader of the Iowa Federation of Labor, says he and his labor brothers and sisters know from experience how court decisions can sting when the law is interpreted in such a way as to go against personal views.
“It goes without saying that workers are no strangers to disagreements with court rulings, but if the courts did not not adequately deal with necessary workers’ issues, unions have always turned to the legislative branch to enact laws to protect workers at the state and federal levels,” said Rowen, one of three speakers participating in a “Homegrown Justice” tour sponsored by Fair Courts for Us. “Our response has never been to get rid of judges who did not rule in our favor. … Working to oust judges is nothing more than political retribution.”
Speakers at this larger rally wanted to impress upon voters the need for the state to have a judicial branch that makes rulings without first taking the state’s political temperature.
Speaking to The Iowa Independent after the rally, Ruth Harkin, a member of the Iowa Board of Regents, wife to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and former Story County Attorney, said that Iowans need to thoroughly consider what could happen if Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center got his wish that all 74 judges on the November ballot be ousted.
“It would just be chaos,” Harkin said. “As we heard here today, there are thousands of cases that go through our system and the people involved in them need the help of the court. My sister is a part-time magistrate in Decorah. When she decides cases for the protection of children, the decision needs to happen that day.”
Speaking as an attorney, Harkin said the state’s legal system and judiciary is “really the envy of the nation” because it has historically functioned outside the realm of ever-changing political whims. She, like the other speakers and those gathered for the rally, are concerned that some are prepared to toss that aside on the back of a single decision with which they find disagreement.
“I am very concerned about the risk these out-of-state special interest groups are bringing to our state. The attacks against our judiciary in this election are unprecedented and unacceptable. The last place politics should be injected is in a judge’s chambers” she said. “As Iowans we share a common duty to stand up for fairness, to fend off these fanatical views and to make sure that our judicial system continues to work for all of us.”
Cedar Rapids attorney Bill McCartan began his public remarks by acknowledging that he is a “small government” Republican, and denounced the Iowa for Freedom group, founded by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, for its “perverse” name.
“Where will we hide if the independence of our judiciary is destroyed on Tuesday?” asked McCartan. “Where will we hide when we go before the court and it is simply a matter of which side is more popular? Where will we hide when it is a matter of which side has donated the most money to the judge that will hear our case?
“The people who are running that [Judge] bus around this state, who claim to be for freedom, would tear down the institution that secures all of our freedoms. I don’t think that is going to happen. Iowans are descent people, and they don’t like what under-lies the message on the side of that bus. More importantly, Iowans are smart people, and they know what the word freedom really means.”