In Iowa, Other Issues Crowd Out Gay Marriage
By MONICA DAVEY
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 7, 2010
DES MOINES — When Iowa became the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage a year ago, opponents said the issue would drive future political races, and some even pledged to work to remove the State Supreme Court justices behind the decision.
With Iowans going to polls on Tuesday, same-sex marriage has been a matter of debate among the Republican candidates for governor, but the issue appears to have been overtaken by voters’ worries about jobs, the economy and the state’s budget misery.
“Too many other things are upsetting people,” said David A. Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and a former political reporter for The Des Moines Register.
Mr. Yepsen said the race for governor had essentially been transformed into a referendum on the performance of Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat seeking his second term.
At least 2,020 same-sex couples have married in Iowa since the State Supreme Court unanimously ruled in April 2009 that a state law barring such unions was unconstitutional. The ruling set off a flurry of efforts to take the matter to voters, but any such referendum on a constitutional amendment requires the approval of two consecutive General Assemblies, and the Democratic-led legislature has resisted the notion.
Mr. Culver is unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, but three Republicans — including former Gov. Terry Branstad — want to replace him. All three say they favor allowing a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but one of the candidates, Bob Vander Plaats, has gone further, calling for an effort to remove the three justices on the State Supreme Court, who are all on the ballot this November.
Mr. Branstad, who departed a dozen years ago after four terms and who, as governor, signed the state law banning same-sex marriage that was struck down last year, holds a 28-point lead in the latest poll by The Des Moines Register.
Some of the strongest opponents of same-sex marriage, including the Iowa Family Policy Center, say the issue remains crucial here (The Register’s poll found that 77 percent of Republican voters said the issue should be brought to the voters).
The policy center’s political action committee has endorsed Mr. Vander Plaats and taken the unusual step of announcing that it will not support anyone in November if Mr. Branstad is the Republican nominee.
Bryan English, a spokesman for the center, acknowledged that efforts to remove Iowa’s justices had gained little steam, but said that his group intended to single out state legislative races in the fall in an effort shift the partisan balance there.
Supporters of same-sex marriage say Iowans are mostly tired of the issue.
“They want to move on,” said Justin Uebelhor, a spokesman for One Iowa, a gay advocacy group. “They want elected officials to focus on jobs, the economy, improving schools.”