Same Sex Marriage Still An Issue In Iowa

Ever since its unanimous decision legalizing gay marriage in the state, Iowa’s Supreme Court has been in the crosshairs of conservative activists. A successful election effort in 2010 led to three judges losing their retention elections and Iowa social conservatives, with the backing of the state Republican Party, are already mounting a strong effort to defeat a fourth. However, according to today’s Des Moines Register that judge is not mounting any effort of his own this year.

Opponents of same-sex marriage last weekend declared an all-out battle to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, but the pending fight has sparked no sign so far that Wiggins intends to mount a conventional political campaign in return. In Florida, three Supreme Court justices threatened with a campaign to boot them from office already have raised nearly $1 million for an expected fall media blitz of television and newspaper ads aimed at counteracting the tea party forces aligned against them. Wiggins, in contrast, spent the Thursday noon hour addressing members of a Des Moines Rotary group without ever asking attendees for either their votes or their money.

This judicial election could have a major impact on the Presidential race in November. It is the only other statewide office besides the Presidency on the ballot in Iowa and opposition to gay marriage has energized the state’s social conservatives to turn out in the past. If Wiggins doesn’t put up much of a fight, it will give Republicans an extra advantage in the state. Opponents of gay marriage will be turning out social conservatives in traditionally Republican parts of the state without any operation to counter them among supporters of same-sex marriage. In a state decided by razor-thin margins in 2000 and 2004, this edge could be enough to swing Iowa’s six electoral votes in November.

Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.