Party leader's call is irresponsible

By The Gazette Editorial Board


Nearly two years have passed since Iowa voters removed three Iowa Supreme Court justices — the unfortunate ending to a reckless drive to punish the court for its unanimous ruling on same-sex marriage.

If you thought that pound of flesh would satisfy court critics, you’re mistaken. Last week, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, A.J. Spiker, called for the ouster of Justice David Wiggins, who joined the marriage ruling and faces a retention vote this fall.

In 2010, conservative groups led the charge, including the Family Leader, which will announce its 2012 plans on Saturday. But the direct involvement of one of Iowa’s two major parties takes this irresponsible effort to a new level.

Spiker’s statement on the issue is a jumble of misinformation. He accuses the court of ruling “arrogantly and deceitfully” on a “whim” and imposing its “personal views” without regard for “laws and values.” Spiker argues that the court had no “justification or ability” to rule on the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban.

Anyone who has read the court’s ruling can see through this nonsense. The court weighed arguments on both sides, broadcast live its proceedings statewide and rendered a decision that carefully balances the right of gay couples to equal protection under the law with the right of religious institutions to define marriage in a way consistent with their values.

But whether you agree or disagree, what’s clear is that the court was doing its constitutional job. Iowans brought an important dispute over constitutional equity to the Court, and the justices had to make a call.

Removing justices from the court for making a single controversial ruling undermines the very foundation of an independent judiciary, and flies in the face of a constitutional retention process intended to assess judges’ fitness for office — not the popularity of their rulings. And Spiker would take a hammer to that foundation to score political points for his party. It’s a radical, not a conservative, step. And at a time when the economy Iowans’ top priority, it’s a needless distraction.

Also on the ballot are three new justices appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad. It’s possible that the fog of falsehood spawned by Spiker and others could put their jobs in jeopardy.

Iowans should reject Spiker’s call.

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