Republican voters in Iowa have rejected the anti-gay marriage rhetoric of Bob Vander Plaats, opting instead to nominate former Governor Terry Branstad as their GOP pick for governor.

Social conservatives had rallied behind Vander Plaats, the contest's most vocal opponent of the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in the state.

While all three GOP candidates are squarely opposed to gay and lesbian couples marrying, Vander Plaats offered the most heated opposition, vowing to halt gay weddings in the state with an executive order until the issue is decided by voters and calling for the ouster of the seven Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously in favor of gay marriage.

In a last-minute email to supporters, the Iowa Family PAC, the political arm of the anti-gay Iowa Family Policy Center, continued to praise Sioux City businessman Vander Plaats for his anti-gay marriage rhetoric.

“Only Bob Vander Plaats will halt the distribution of the forged marriage licenses that are being offered in this state to homosexuals,” the group wrote. “He will keep his oath as governor and actually abide by the constitution and enforce the law. On his first day in office, Iowa will begin the process of reestablishing our republic and removing the shackles of judicial tyranny.”

While a large majority of Republicans surveyed before the primary (77%) said they want to vote on the definition of marriage, Branstad's nomination signals that mainstream Republicans put bread and butter issues ahead of reversing the court's ruling.

The Iowa Family Policy Center has previously said it will not endorse Branstad's campaign because of his limited support for gay rights.

Branstad will face Democratic Governor Chet Culver in the fall.