Last Sunday’s column on Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker’s call to oust another Iowa Supreme Court justice in the name of cynical same-sex marriage politics drew a little mail.
There was some praise, and some criticism. One reader argued that marriage equality is really just a high-sounding label for “homosexual hookups.” Another argued that if God had created two men or two women instead of Adam and Eve, no one would be here now to have this debate. And, after reading my mail, that thought made me smile.
But one email stood out. It was from Cedar Rapids attorney William McCartan, who took issue with Spiker’s politicized declaration of anti-judicial independence and wrote a letter to the GOP State Central Committee.
“I write to you as a lifelong Republican. I was stunned to see that our party had today issued an official call for the removal of a justice of the Iowa Supreme Court based on a disagreement with one of the Court’s rulings. Our courts protect our freedom from the encroachment of government power. As Republicans, I thought we stood FOR that proposition — not against it,” McCartan wrote, adding “shameful” and “radical” for good measure.
Next morning, he received the first response from committee member Jamie Johnson of Stratford. He insisted that the court, in striking down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriages, assumed power “that no human government can possess.”
“Their lawlessness was not a trespass against the legislative branch, nor against the executive branch, nor even against the people of Iowa. Their trespass was against God, who created the institution of marriage and defined it as the union of one man and one woman. He did not delegate the authority to define it to any earthly power,” Johnson wrote, throwing in an “abomination” and a “wickedly” for good measure.
Another committee member, Mark Doland, an Oskaloosa pastor, argued that Spiker is correctly assailing the court because its marriage ruling runs afoul of the Republican Party platform and bylaws, along with the Iowa and U.S. constitutions, the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. He also called for fairness.
“It would not be ‘fair’ to allow Justice Wiggins to remain on the bench after his three colleagues were removed for the same infraction,” Doland wrote.
McCartan wasn’t impressed.
“Two days later, I officially changed my party registration to ‘No Party,’ ” McCartan told me in his email. That’s too bad, because one of our only two major parties just got more extreme, less reasonable.
Again, the same-sex marriage issue in Iowa, from a judicial standpoint, is settled. But what’s not settled is whether we’re going to stand by while folks like Spiker and his allies dishonestly bully our courts when they issue rulings based on law, arguments and evidence, but fail to consider the Republican Party’s platform or the spiteful, selective biblical stylings of the righteous right.
Thankfully, there are people such as McCartan who will stand up to it and reject it. But not everyone is as brave.
“My position has always been, as it was in the 2010 election, that this retention of judges is a decision to be made by the voters and that I should not try to influence people’s decision,” Gov. Terry Branstad said last week, refusing to give his own opinion.
“I can tell you I am going to take the same posture I did on the effort to remove the three last time. That is a state issue, and I am going to concentrate on federal issues,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley when asked about the retention issue recently.
I’m not saying these guys have to endorse same-sex marriage. But Branstad has a law degree and appointed scores of judges over the years using this nomination/retention process. Grassley is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and helped Regis grad J. Paul Oetken become the first openly gay American to be confirmed as a federal judge. I believe, deep down, they both recognize Spiker’s call as reckless folly. They just can’t seem to summon the fortitude to get past the politics.
Maybe they will some day. But we need them now. Responsible, truly conservative GOP leaders need to stand up and say enough.