House debate on gay marriage

As many House members sit at their desks to eat the lunches provided by Iowa’s insurance industry, the debate has begun on a resolution that would set up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment, an amendment which would declare the only legally valid unions in Iowa are those between a man and a woman.  It would make civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages illegal. 

At 11:19 a.m., Representative Dwayne Alons began speaking about the history behind this proposal.  “A groundswell of support for traditional marriage has arisen and people all across Iowa are saying, ‘Let us vote!’ Alons said, raising his voice as he said those last three words.

He mentioned the 2010 judicial retention election which tossed three justices off the Iowa Supreme Court. “Iowans are kind of like the person in the cell phone advertisement,” Alons said. “They’re saying, ‘Can you hear me now?'”

Alons said a constitutional amendment is “the only way to rectify the overreach of the court in this situation.”

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Public hearing on gay marriage

What follows is a live blog of the first 10 speakers at a public hearing about a proposed House Resolution that (eventually) would put a constitutional amendment before Iowa voters, an amendment which would bar same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions.

At 6:30 p.m. Rep. Richard Anderson, a Republican from Clarinda, opened this public hearing with an advisory about the “decorum” of the House and what is and isn’t allowed. “It is not a very nice evening out there, weatherwise,” Anderson said, adding that’s why the public hearing will end at 8:30 p.m. “because the streets are getting slick.”

At 6:36 p.m. the long process of listening to each legislator in the room announce their presence began. (There are state senators in the house, BTW, as well as state representatives.)  It took ’til 6:47 p.m. for that to end.   A supporter of the constitutional amendment will speak, then an opponent, and this will be pro/con process will continue through the end of the hearing.

Former State Rep. Danny Carroll of Grinnell from The FAMiLY Leader was first to speak, saying the pubic hearing was “two years overdue.”  Carroll called the supreme court’s ruling “offensive” and he said he was representing “thousands of families across the state” who want a chance to vote on the constitutional amendment.  “I support marriage as created by God…and I will be leading the campaign to support the institution of marriage that we have embraced in this state for so many years,” he said, saying a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment was a “reasonable” move.

Dawn BarbaRouske was next.  She was one of the plaintiffs in the Varnum case.  She told legislators she and her partner had been together for more than 20 years and had been married for a year and a half.  “Our marriage is woven together with love, hard-work, honesty…and respect,” she said, her voice breaking as she spoke. “We should not judge each other.  Not one marriage has been negatively impacted by our love for the past 20 years,” she said. 

The like-minded people in the crowd applauded.

Karen Mogenhan spoke next.  “I support traditional marriage. I know it to be best for…our state and our society,” she said, warning of unintended or ignored consequences of same-sex marriage such as changes in the education system from sex ed to prom to college dorms; denial of tax benefits to religious organizations that don’t believe in same-sex marriage.   “How do we fend off bigamy, polygamy?” she asked. “How long ’til another group comes forth?”

Like-minded people in the crowd applauded.

Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old U-of-I student and Eagle Scout who was raised by two women was next. “I guess the point that our family isn’t so different from any other Iowa family,” Wahls said.

More applause.

Mark Doland was next.  “Judges do not make law,” Doland said.  “…I’ve had to pull my kids out of public school.  It costs me $11,000.”  Doland said he had to pull his kids out of school because of an “activist teacher” who said it was normal to have same-sex relations.

More applause.

Suku Radia, CEO of Banker’s Trust, was next.  “I know well the tyranny of intolerance,” Radia said, of his native Uganda.  “…You can see why I have long treasured the tolerance of Iowans.”

“Please refrain from clapping,” Anderson said after Radia concluded.

Jen Green was next. “I’m actually not here to defend marriage.  Make no mistake, regardless of what happens…marriage has already been defined thousands of years ago by our creator,” she began.  The breakdown of marriage has occurred because people won’t “fight for it” and preserve the institution, she said.

Jane Erickson, a grad student at ISU, was next.  She was living in Massachusetts with her same-sex partner, but moved to Iowa after the Varnum decision to be closer to grandparents.   “My life is richer for every year that I share with Sarah,” she said.  “…The word marriage carries a different weight…a higher standard of obligation to one another.”

Marvin Smith was next, calling the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum decision a “vicious attack” on society. “They violated the design of the almighty from creation…demolishing the very core of our society – the family unit,” he said.

Former State Senator Jeff Angelo (formerly of Creston, now of Ames) called himself a “citizen activist” and said he had co-sponsored a similar amendment in the past when he was serving in the legislature. “I have changed my position on this issue,” he said.  “…The purpose of our constitution is to protect the rights of individuals.” Angelo said the debate in Iowa about gay marriage “centers around the devaluation of the lives of a select group of people” who are accused of a “nefarious” agenda.

“Iowans are discomforted by this debate, because we know it not to be true,” he said.  

Angelo got a little burst of applause.  “No more applause,” Anderson said.

No more live blogging.  I’m going to start writing a story for

Commission nominates 9 for 3 court openings

At 6:36 p.m. an email alert came from the Iowa Judicial Branch.  The Judicial Nominating Commission has chosen its nine nominees for the three openings on the Iowa Supreme Court.  The commission began conducting individual interviews with each of the 60 applicants on Monday and concluded those interviews earlier this afternoon.  Read the names of the nine they’ve nominated below.

Commission Names Nominees for Iowa Supreme Court

Des Moines, Iowa, January 27, 2011—After completing public interviews of all 60 applicants, the State Judicial Nominating Commission has selected a slate of nine nominees to fill the vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court that occurred when the terms of Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice Michael Streit and Justice David Baker ended on December 31, 2010. The nominees are:

Robert James Blink, West Des Moines, Age 60

District Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District

J.D., 1975, Drake University


Arthur E. Gamble, Clive, Age 58

District Judge (appointed 1983), Chief Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District

J.D., 1978, University of Iowa


John C. Gray, Sioux City, Age 56

Attorney—Heidman Law Firm

J.D., 1981, University of Iowa


Steven Verne Lawyer, New Virginia, Age 45

Attorney—Law Firm of Steven V. Lawyer & Associates, PLC

J.D., 1991, Drake University


Edward M. Mansfield, Des Moines, Age 53

Iowa Court of Appeals Judge (appointed 2009)

J.D., 1982, Yale


Michael R. Mullins, Washington, Age 58

District Judge (appointed 2002)—Eighth Judicial District

J.D., 1982, Drake University


 Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Grinnell, Age 37

 Professor of Law, University of Iowa

J.D., 1997, University of Michigan


Thomas Dana Waterman, Pleasant Valley, Age 51

Attorney—Lane & Waterman L.L.P.

J.D., 1984, University of Iowa


Bruce B. Zager, Waterloo, Age 58

District Judge (appointed 1999)—First Judicial District

J.D., 1980, Drake University


Governor Branstad has thirty days in which to make the appointments to the court from this slate of nominees. A summary resume, completed questionnaire and writing samples for each candidate are posted here on the Judicial Branch website.

1.21.11: Bachmann at ITR event (AUDIO)

Fifty-three-year-old Jon Wood of Adel, Iowa, has come here tonight to see an old high school classmate.  Wood is a graduate of Anoka, Minnesota High School. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was in his class.

“I just remember her from high school being a very decent person, not part of that clique that’s kind of stand-offish, kind of snobby — just an average person,” Wood said during an interview about half an hour before the event was to start.

Wood supported Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the 2008 campaign and describes himself as a “Ron Paul/Tea Party person.”  Wood plans to evaluate Bachmann as a potential presidential candidate tonight. “She talks about fiscal responsibility and that’s really the main thing,” Wood said.  “The core principle is the debt and then let’s bring the troops back.  I support that (bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and other military installations around the world) because that’s what I think is required to get the fiscal house in order.”

Bachmann is tonight’s speaker/main draw at a fundraiser for the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC.  Listen to her 43-minute speech:   Bachmann

What follows is a live blog of the event. The crowd is enjoying the coffee, cocktails, chicken strips and other items on the nibbling/sipping buffet right now, at 10 ’til six on a Friday night.  It appears there are about a dozen tripods and cameras set up on the press riser.  A large contingent of press from the Twin Cities is here.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spoke last April at an Iowans for Tax Relief event.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared at an ITR fundraiser in October and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has done an event for the group, too.

At 6:15 p.m. Bachmann walked into the room and sat down next to Governor Terry Branstad.  As Ed Failor, Junior — president of Iowans for Tax Relief — started the introduction, a handful of still photographers crouched in front of Bachmann to take her photo.

“There’s been a sea change,” Failor said of the Iowa Legislature.  Several legislators are here — House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer sitting just behind Branstad.  Senators Bill Dix and Kent Sorenson are here, too, and just got a round of applause from the crowd.

As Failor speaks, Branstad and Bachmann are having a conversation in the front row.  “We had a massive sea change at the national level as well,” Failor said.

Failor alluded to Bachmann’s presidential ambitions. “I don’t care what’s next, but I tell you what, I hope you continue to lead the debate,” Failor said to Bachmann.

After thanking the crowd for the reception, she began her remarks by talking about her Iowa roots. “I am an Iowan myself…I’m a seventh generation (Iowan).  My dad called us Iowegians…You may know my other brother,”  Bachmann said, mentioning her brother Gary Amble had been a TV weatherman in Des Moines.

Bachmann called today a “coming home” for her. “Iowans are so nice,” she said.  “…My dad always used to tell me Iowans are the best looking people in the wordl…He’s absolutely correct.”

[Read more…]

Resign? “Absolutely not” says Cady

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady met with the editorial board of The Cedar Rapids Gazette today.  Cady was asked about the call for him and the other three justices who remain on the court.  Todd Dorman, columnist for The Gazette, provides the text of answers to his questions during the hour-long meeting; here’s a key section:

 Q — Some saw the November election as a vote of no confidence in the court and said the rest of you should resign. Was there any consideration of that?

“Absolutely not. We have too much at stake. This is not about any individual judges. It’s not a time for people on the bench who are trying to uphold the system that we have to think about resigning. This is a time to step forward and help inform everyone of really what we’re really all about, the way we operate and the good work that we do.

“That would send the exact wrong message. And I think it would disappoint the people who understand and have been through our system and have seen how it does work.”

Lawsuit over judge selection, retention processes dismissed

A federal judge has dismised a lawsuit challenging the way Iowa selects judges and holds retention elections like the one this past fall which led to the exits of three of the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.  A statement from the state’s attorney general is below.

Judge Dismisses Iowa’s Justice Selection Challenge

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt Wednesday granted Attorney General Tom Miller’s request to dismiss a legal challenge of Iowa’s judicial and retention system, which Iowans adopted through a constitutional amendment.

“Today Judge Pratt very soundly upheld the will of the people of Iowa,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.  “This is a significant ruling that affirms our right as Iowa citizens to choose how we select our Supreme Court justices.”

Four Iowa plaintiffs, through the Indiana-based James Madison Center for Free Speech, filed a December 8 request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.  Miller replied with a motion to dismiss.

The plaintiffs challenged the makeup of the 15-member Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission, whose members must be chosen without reference to their political affiliation.  The Commission is comprised of the most senior Iowa Supreme Court Justice other than the Chief Justice, who serves as chair; seven members chosen by the governor; and seven lawyer members elected by Iowa attorneys.  The Commission submits three finalists for an open Iowa Supreme Court seat to the governor, who appoints the Supreme Court Justice.

In his 35-page ruling, Judge Pratt called the plaintiffs’ arguments “fatally flawed.”  In granting the state’s motion to dismiss, the judge wrote that the plaintiffs “may prefer that Iowa had a different method of judicial selection, but absent a violation of a clearly-established constitutional right, the people of Iowa are entitled to retain the judicial selection system they chose in 1962.”

Read more about potential justices

Officials in the Iowa Judicial Branch have posted the paperwork filed by the 61 people who have applied for the three openings on the Iowa Supreme Court.  Read the details below, plus notice two other items: the interviews with prospective justices will be streamed online and former Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission chair Lorraine May, a Des Moines attorney, has applied to be on the state’s highest court.

State Commission Releases Information Submitted by Applicants for Supreme Court Vacancies

Des Moines, January 19, 2011— The State Judicial Nominating Commission has released completed questionnaires and writing samples submitted by sixty persons seeking nomination for appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court. This information is available to the public and posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website:

Currently, the court has three vacancies, which occurred after voters decided not to retain three justices in office last fall. The Commission is responsible for screening applicants and sending a slate of nominees to the governor who makes the appointments to the court. The Commission plans to send a slate of nine nominees to Governor Branstad. Initially, sixty-one persons applied for the court. However, last week three of the original group of applicants (Richard Anderson, Ted Breckenfelder, and James Moriarty) withdrew their applications and two other persons (Lorraine May and Gayle Vogel) applied.

The Commission will hold public interviews of all applicants next week. Interviews will begin on January 24 at 9:00 a.m. and are expected to run through noon on January 27. Interviews will be limited to 20 minutes for each applicant. The Commission will release a schedule of the interviews later this week. The Commission will hold the interviews in the Iowa Supreme Court Courtroom, 4th Floor, Iowa Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Ave., Des Moines. The public is welcome to attend. In addition, the Commission is arranging for the interviews to be streamed live over the Internet. A link to the stream will be on the Iowa Judicial Branch website.

Pro-judge group releases poll

A group that supports the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justices has paid to conduct a poll on the prospect of impeachment of the four justices who remain on the Iowa Supreme Court.  Read the group’s release below; it mentions another outfit’s polling data as well.

Iowans Decisively Oppose Impeachment of Justices, Polls Show
Group Urges End to ‘Misguided’ Ouster Bid by Vander Plaats, Legislators

JAN. 18—Iowa voters are solidly opposed to impeaching four state Supreme Court justices, according to two new independent statewide polls, and leaders of an Iowa group are calling on the legislature to quickly end a “misguided” impeachment effort by some lawmakers.

In a poll released today <>  by Justice Not Politics and the Justice at Stake Campaign, 54 percent oppose calls to impeach the justices.  Only 36 percent said they favor impeaching the judges, over a 2009 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that permitted same-sex marriage.

Moreover, after hearing the Iowa Constitution’s standard for impeachment—“misdemeanor or malfeasance”—only 17 percent said that a court decision can be an impeachable offense. By contrast, 63 percent of Iowans said a court decision does not meet the standard for impeachment, even if they personally disagree with it. 

[Read more…]

Chief justice has “absolutely” no regret about same-sex marriage ruling

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady is the guest on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.  Cady responded with “absolutely not” when asked whether he had regrets about the court’s 2009 decision on same-sex marriage which has sparked controversy. 

“…That decision was crafted with all of the energy, all of the strength — everything that we do as judges is in that opinion,” Cady said. “Everything that Iowa is about is in that opinion.”

Grant Schulte of The Des Moines Register noted Cady’s comments about what judges need to do now.

…Cady said judges in Iowa need “to stand up, and explain to the public that doesn’t understand that isn’t about our personal views.

“This is about applying the law, applying our constitution, and doing what judges have always been doing,” he said.

 James Q. Lynch of The Cedar Rapids Gazette covered what Cady said about the 2010 retention election and future retention elections .

…“We approached that retention election much like judges and the judiciary has always approached things,” he said. “We tried to stay in the back, do our work and do it in a competent, quiet way.’

However the election “revealed something else to us,” the chief justice said, and predicted the justices won’t be as docile in standing for retention in the future even if it means forming political action committees, raising money – even from potential litigants – and hiring campaign consultants.

 “Iowa Press” airs tonight at 7:30.   Or you can watch it on IPTV’s website.

Branstad’s 2011 Inaugural for term #5 (AUDIO)

What follows is a live blog of the Inaugural of Governor Terry Branstad, the Republican who won a fifth term in November.  (Read the Radio Iowa story of today’s event and listen to Branstad’s speech here.)

At 9:12 a.m. the parade of dignitaries began.  The crowd stood but did not applaud as each of the four justices on the Iowa Supreme Court were introduced, followed by the members of the Iowa Court of Appeals.  The next people introduced were U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and his wife, Barbara, and the crowd applauded them.  The audience then applauded the rest of the dignitaries who were introduced: Congressman Leonard Boswell, former Governor Robert Ray, former Lieutenant Governors Joy Corning and Sally Pederson.

The parade continues, with the staff of Governor-elect Branstad being introduced. There was a brief pause before the crowd applauded the “State of Iowa Dep;artment heads”  The leaders of Iowa’s two political parties are here — Matt Strawn and Sue Dvorsky.

Legislative leaders are being introduced, to be followed by all the legislators who are here.  Just so you know, the event is already about 15 minutes behind schedule at this point.  Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines is the site for today’s festivities.  A wide red span of carpet covers the aisle through the middle of the sea of chairs.  The processional music for today’s festivities is being provided by the Iowa National Guard band.

Holy cow!  An email just came into my inbox.  Governor Chet Culver has just appointed another district court judge this morning (no, he didn’t appoint a supreme court justice).  So that may be Culver’s last official act.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung by John Cheatem. For the last two stanzas Linda Juckette joined him.  The two then sang God Bless America. Both have sung at the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines.

The crowd just applauded as Chief Justice Mark Cady was introduced.  Archbishop Hanus was to deliver the invocation, but can’t be here for health reasons.  Bishop Amos, from Sioux City, gave the opening prayer in his place.

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