A Republican from Sioux City says the “outrage” he’s hearing about the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa rings “hollow” to him.
Christopher Rants says some of those who’re now campaigning to oust an Iowa Supreme Court justice who joined that 2009 ruling are the same people who came to him eight years ago, when Rants was speaker of the Iowa House, warning Iowa’s Supreme Court was likely to overturn the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.
“You don’t just start tossing out the judges because you don’t like their rulings,” Rants says, “particularly when a lot of people knew that this was going to happen down the road anyway.”
Rants says he was convinced by a representative of The Iowa Family Policy Center — now known as The Family Leader — that the House should start the process of getting an amendment to the state’s constitution to protect one-man-and-one-woman marriage. The Family Leader is now a key group involved in the campaign to vote Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins off the bench. Rants suggests it’s misplaced energy.
“If people are upset, and I understand why people are upset, and you want to overturn it, you hold the legislature accountable,” Rants says.
Only the legislature — not even the governor — has the authority to begin the process of amending the state’s constitution, by placing a proposed amendment on the ballot for a vote of the people. Rants recently wrote a guest editorial in The Sioux City journal, suggesting those who are campaigning against Justice Wiggins “would have us believe that our Supreme Court hijacked the Constitution” and usurped the roles of the governor and the legislature. Rants disagrees.
“I understand that this is an easy rallying cry for those people who are upset with the ruling or who want to continue to have the political issue to fight on,” Rants says. “Let’s face it — they raised a lot of money two years ago to finance their operation. They’ve got a lot of outside money coming in again and there’s nothing wrong with that, but my larger concern is that we politicize the courts to the point that we don’t have an independent judiciary.”
Two years ago the campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who were on the ballot in the 2010 retention election was successful and the groups involved have reunited this year to target a fourth justice who’s up for retention. Rants says he will vote yes to retain Justice Wiggins
“I wasn’t surprised when the court ruling came out. I don’t know many people who were surprised. Every lawyer I had talked to in advance of the court ruling said this was what was going to happen,” Rants says. “I don’t think this is a case of rampant judicial activism, not when you have a unanimous Supreme Court decision like that.”
And Rants says most of the justices that participated in the ruling had been appointed to the court by Republican Governor Terry Branstad. Rants, in his editorial for The Sioux City Journal, made clear that he doesn’t support same-sex marriage, but Rants wrote that he doesn’t blame Justice Wiggins — and he said neither should Iowa voters.