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
expenditure report with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure
Board disclosing an $86,080 television and radio ad buy on behalf of
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
Karger, whose group is behind a
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.