Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

September 24, 2012

Bus tours offer different views on retention

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Pella — Two buses rolled into Pella this morning, each with its own ideas regaring why voters should or should not vote to retain Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins in November. 

Wiggins is the only justice of the four remaining on the court who unanimously struck down Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Three other justices who agreed with the decision were not retained in 2010. The other three who were on that court are not up for retention. Wiggins is joined on the ballot this year by three justices appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011. 

Rolling onto the Pella square first was the big, red "No Wiggins" bus, sponsored by Bob Vander Plaats and Rick Santorum's Patriot Voices organization. They spoke to a crowd between 40-50 people.

On the other side of the Tulip Toren was a group of Central College students, all of whom said they were Iowa natives. They believe same-sex marriage should be legal. As the "No Wiggins" speakers began to address their crowd, the protestors were joined by a smaller bus with representatives from the Iowa State Bar Association. The representatives of the Bar waited to speak until the Vander Plaats crew had finished.

Tamara Scott, Iowa's representative to the Republican National Committee, told the crowd that Wiggins received a 63 percent approval rating from his peers. She believes this is one reason why he should not be retained.

"This is not the 'B' team, this is the Iowa Supreme Court," Scott said. A report on the Iowa State Bar web page (http://www.iowabar.org/associations/4664/files/2012%20Judicial%20Review%20SC.pdf) confirms this about Wiggins. The other three justices up for retention received scores over 90 percent. 

Vander Plaats focused on Wiggins' vote in the case that ruled DOMA unconstitutional. He believes gay marriage violates natural law, thus violates American law.

"We abide by the law of nature and the law of nature's god," Vander Plaats said. "The Supreme Court is not allowed to make law from the bench."

Vander Plaats' opponents stressed that the Wiggins and the 2009 justices were interpreting the Constitution, and its equal protection act. They don't believe that, even if Wiggins is removed the bench, it will have any effect on marriage in Iowa. 

"(The Supreme Court) didn't impose same-sex marriage on anyone," Guy Cook, President of the Iowa State Bar Association said. "The Iowa Supreme Court imposed the Constitution on some legislation that was unfair." 

The representatives of the bar also mocked Santorum and Gov. Bobby Jinadl of Louisiana, who will join the No Wiggins tour later this week. They said Iowa's judiciary is ranked in the top 10 by the US Chamber of Commerce while Pennsylvania (Santorum's home state) and Louisiana rank very low. 

Santorum believes the Supreme Court is the least powerful branch of government. He said the article outlining the court in the Constitution is an "itty-bitty" one, and that the justices placed themselves above the Legislative and Executive branches. 

"They are rewriting (the Constitution) to undermine our rights," Santorum said. "Our Constitutions were crafted to pur the power in the hands of those closest to the people." 

Santorum also said that the action on gay marriage may be one step toward the Judicial branch taking rights away from the people. He asked those in attendance to pledge to a friend to do something to make an impact on this election and the future of our country. 

Christine Branstad (the governor's niece) criticized Vander Plaats for claiming his work in 2010 was a "grassroots" effot. Money and influence on the judicial retention vote that year came from Mississippi and Washington, D.C., on an Iowa state issue. She accused Vander Plaats of using some of that money to buy himself a new home. 

Branstad also touted Iowa's tradition of being ahead of the curve on civil rights. Iowa desegregated class rooms and outlawed slavery decades before other states. 

"The Iowa Supreme Court applied the Constitution to protect the freedoms and liberty of its citizens," Dan Moore with the Bar added. "The voce of reason will rise above all of this noise." 

Both groups had wrapped their presentations by noon. Marion County Republican Chair Irene Blom was pleased with the turnout for the No Wiggins tour and making more people aware of the retention vote.