Anti-gay groups renew drive to oust Iowa judge

A group of Iowa conservatives announced over the weekend they will campaign to defeat Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who was part of the court’s unanimous 2009 decision to allow gay marriage in the states. 

But Wiggins, unlike three Iowa high court judges rejected by voters in 2010, is backed by a group of activists fighting their own campaign to defend him.

On Nov. 6, Wiggins faces a retention vote as every judge does every eight years, and needs simply more yes votes than no votes to keep his position.

The campaign against Wiggins was announced at a meeting of hundreds of conservative activists at a suburban Des Moines church.

The Family Leader, a political and issue activist group led by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, is directing the campaign.

“When you raise your hand and you swear an oath to the constitution and then you go outside of the constitution, outside of your separation of powers to legislate from the bench ... we the people must hold a person like that in check,” said Vander Plaats, chairman of the campaign called Iowans for Freedom.

The announcement follows Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker’s call this month for Republicans to oppose Wiggins’ retention.

In 2010, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Associated Justices David Baker and Michael Streit lost their bids for retention. The opposition was fueled by opposition to the 2009 decision, which made Iowa the only state in the Midwest where same-sex marriage is legal.

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum urged the roughly 1,000 gathered at Point of Grace Church in Waukee to rally against Wiggins the same way.

“You decide this Election Day to vote out Justice Wiggins and send another strong message,” said Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who narrowly won the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Santorum exited the race in April.

However, some Iowa conservatives have said concern about the economy has eclipsed the fervor over gay marriage.

A group backed by gay rights activists – led by former Lt. Gov. Joy Corning, a Republican, and former Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson, a Democrat – is mounting its own campaign to protect Wiggins.

“Supporters reject the vicious attacks from political extremists and value a fair court which protects the rights of every Iowa family,” group chairwoman Connie Ryan Terrell said Saturday.

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