DES MOINES, Iowa. (BP)–The issue of “gay marriage” technically was not on any ballot Nov. 2 but it nevertheless was a big loser again on the state level, as Iowa voters ousted three state Supreme Court justices in an unprecedented vote, and several key state legislatures and governor’s offices flipped from liberal to conservative.
The result is that on the national level, the legalization of “gay marriage” could be slowed, halted or — in the cases of Iowa and New Hampshire — altogether reversed. Only five states recognize it.
Some of the results nationwide were shocking, but the races in Iowa and New Hampshire may be the most consequential. One year after watching the Iowa Supreme Court legalize “gay marriage” in a 7-0 vote, voters booted all three justices who were on the ballot for retention. Justices David Baker and Michael Streit lost 54-46 percent, while Justice Marsha Ternus lost 55-45 percent. It was a monumental win for the ruling’s opponents, who faced an uphill climb to educate voters — who often bypass the retention portion of the ballot — about the vote. It was the first time since 1962 that an Iowa Supreme Court justice has been rejected.
Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa businessman who led the effort to oust the justices, said the three were ousted because they did not “stay within their constitutional boundary.” Several national pro-family groups — including the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association — played key roles in the effort.
“When they went outside their constitutional boundaries, and they made law from the bench, and they executed [the law] from the bench … every one of our freedoms came up for grabs,” Vander Plaats told supporters after the votes were tallied. “That is why this night had to happen. We did not insert politics into the process; they inserted politics in the process when they decided they could make law from the bench. Iowa stood up with a very common sense and a very measured voice.”
The three justices jointly released a statement, saying the “preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.” They will be replaced by the current governor, Democrat Chet Culver, or the man who defeated him Tuesday, Republican Terry Branstad.
Meanwhile, the Iowa legislature saw Republicans retake the state House and, at a minimum, significantly narrow their margins in the Senate. The legislature is key to the “gay marriage” issue because Democratic leaders have blocked all efforts to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would reverse the “gay marriage” ruling. An amendment likely now will clear the House, while its prospects in the Senate remain unclear but are probably improving. Democrats went into Election Day with 32 seats in the 50-seat Senate but lost several races. With two seats still too close to call, Democrats will have either 26 or 27 seats or — if the GOP captures both seats — be forced to share power in a 25-25 tie.
The National Organization for Marriage spent roughly $600,000 to defeat the justices. NOM President Brian Brown called the victories in Iowa and other states “truly historic and stunning.”
Iowa, though, wasn’t the only place where opponents of “gay marriage” made gains. Elsewhere:
— In New Hampshire, “gay marriage” supporter John Lynch, a Democrat, won re-election, but Republicans regained the House and Senate with such big margins that they may be able to reverse the “same-sex marriage” law, which Lynch signed, even if he objects. The Union-Leader reported that Republicans could hold as many as 19 of 24 seats in the Senate and 296 of 400 seats in the House — both veto-proof margins. One possibility would be to pass a bill reversing the “gay marriage” law. Another possibility would be to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot.
— In Maine, Republican Paul LePage, who opposes “gay marriage,” won an open seat to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who signed a “gay marriage” law in 2009, only to see voters reverse it. Additionally, Republicans took the Maine House and Senate from the Democrats for the first time since the early 1970s. Homosexual activists had hoped to push a “gay marriage” law there again in the near future.
— In Minnesota, Republicans shocked political pundits in the state by taking both the House and Senate for the first time in 38 years, likely thwarting hopes by homosexual groups to pass a “gay marriage” law and perhaps setting the stage for a marriage amendment to be placed on the ballot. In the governor’s race, “gay marriage” supporter and Democrat Mark Dayton was clinging to a small lead over “gay marriage” opponent and Republican Tom Emmer.
— In North Carolina, Republicans took control of the House and Senate for the first time since 1898. The new leadership may allow a vote on a constitutional marriage amendment, previously blocked by Democratic leaders. North Carolina is one of only two southern states (West Virginia the other) that does not have a marriage amendment.
— In Indiana, Republicans retook the House, an action that could put a constitutional marriage amendment — which appeared to be sailing along several years ago until it was blocked by the now-outgoing Democratic House speaker — back on track. The GOP also strengthened its majority in the Senate.
— In Pennsylvania, Republicans took control of the House and tightened their grip in the Senate, possibly setting the stage for a marriage amendment push in that state.
— In New York state, Republicans appeared on the verge of taking a one-seat margin in the Senate, or at worse forcing a 31-31 tie, according to The New York Times. That could have a major impact on a “gay marriage” bill, which many Democrats support but most Republicans oppose.
“The backers of gay marriage are fond of telling the lie that gay marriage is inevitable in this country,” Brown said. “What we have shown in this election is that support for gay marriage is a career-ending position for judges and legislators. The reason for this is that the people of America strongly support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“We’ve turned a major corner this election. We’ve stopped the gay marriage movement in its tracks and now we are poised to start taking back territory where it was wrongly enacted in places like New Hampshire and Iowa. That will be the next battleground, and we are confident of victory.”
Despite a series of big victories for traditionalists, there were some major disappointments. Among them:
— In Rhode Island, independent and “gay marriage” supporter Lincoln Chafee won the governor’s race, and Democrats lost some seats but retained the legislature. Homosexual groups hope to push a bill redefining marriage through the House and Senate.
— In Maryland, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he would sign a “gay marriage” bill, won re-election.
— In Hawaii, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, a supporter of same-sex civil unions, won the governor’s race. He will replace term-limited and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, a civil unions opponent.
— In the California attorney general’s race, Republican Steve Cooley, who had pledged to defend Prop 8 in court if elected, trailed Democrat Kamala Harris by 18,000 votes with 99 percent of the vote in, according to the Los Angeles Times. Harris opposed Prop 8 and supports “gay marriage.”
— In a closely watched California Assembly race, Republican Andy Pugno — general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the group behind Prop 8 — lost in a close race to Democrat Richard Pan, 49-46 percent.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Visit the National Organization for Marriage’s website at NationForMarriage.org.