Anti-gay marriage groups are ratcheting up their efforts to influence the Iowa Legislature in an effort to repeal gay marriage in the state. The latest evidence of such a plan can be gleaned in their backing of the candidacy of Stephen Burgmeier, a conservative Republican running for the Iowa House in a special election to be held in September.

Burgmeier is facing Democrat Curt Hanson in the race to fill the seat left vacant when Democratic Representative John Whitaker was tapped to serve as the Iowa director of the Farm Service Agency.

The race is the first since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage on April 3.

At least three anti-gay marriage groups are now behind Burgmeier: Everyday America, the Iowa Family Policy Center, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

On Friday, The Iowa Independent reported that NOM was backing Burgmeier with an $86,080 ad buy.

NOM, the nation's largest and most vociferous group opposing gay marriage, filed an August 21 independent expenditure report with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board disclosing an $86,080 television and radio ad buy on behalf of Burgmeier's campaign.

Republicans are rallying their base against the court's decision. All five leading Republicans hoping to win the governor's mansion in 2010 oppose gay marriage. Republican frontrunner Bob Vander Plaats has pledged he would sign an executive order placing a stay on gay marriages and force a public vote on the issue, if elected. Rod Roberts, an Iowa State Representative, has called for the ouster of the seven justices, three of which will be up for retention in 2010.

“Vote no on retention of those three judges coming up in 2010 and you will have a say,” Roberts told a crowd of Dallas County Republicans last week.

NOM is hoping to repeat last year's successful repeal of legalized gay marriage in California with Proposition 8. But unlike in states such as California, which allow voter-initiated amendments, a constitutional amendment must be approved by legislators before heading to voters in Iowa. Leaving anti-gay rights groups with the daunting task of altering the composition of the Democratically-led Legislature before they can begin the legislative process.

While the group has actively opposed gay marriage victories this spring in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, it is just starting to organize in the new battleground states such as Iowa and New York.

The group is also preparing to expand its influence to Congress as it considers repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the federal government and allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed outside their borders.

New York Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, is expected to introduced a bill in the fall that would repeal DOMA, including dropping the provision that exempts states from honoring the marriages of gay and lesbian couples formed in states that recognize gay marriage.

“Now gay marriage advocates are pushing Obama for the penultimate prize: repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the only national law that protects marriage,” Brian Brown, executive director of NOM, said in a statement. “We felt NOM needed to be here in D.C. to make the voice of the majority heard.”

The group continues to face heavy criticism from gay rights groups in California.

The group Californians Against Hate alleges NOM is an illegal political front group for the Mormon Church, whose members – at the behest of church leaders – donated enormous financial and organizing resources towards passage of Proposition 8.

“Over the last ten months the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been sticking its nose in every state where any same-sex marriage activity has been taking place,” Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, told On Top Magazine in an email. “They have an unlimited bank account, and have been spending millions upon millions of dollars around the country with absolutely no accountability. They refuse to abide by election laws and IRS reporting laws to reveal the source of their funding.”

Karger, whose group is behind a California Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into the group's involvement in the passage of Proposition 8, also made a new claim: “I appeal to the United States Congress to immediately launch an investigation of the National Organization for Marriage. They are making a laughingstock of the laws of this nation.”

While talking points at Burgmeier's campaign website make no explicit mention of his opposition to gay marriage, focusing instead on tax and spending issues, gay rights group One Iowa remains concerned. In a statement the group said that he hopes to “undermine the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision that everyone in Iowa deserves equal protection under the law.”

Additionally, the outpouring of money and support from anti-gay marriage groups suggests that Burgmeier has at least privately advocated against gay marriage.