Finding Meaning In The Iowa Supreme Court Retention Vote

Kathie Obradovich’s Sunday Des Moines Register column this week provided an interesting question for us: can we reasonably interpret the results of the retention vote beyond it’s singular purpose?

As Kathie tells us, there are a number of perspectives pressing on this ballot item, although many would point directly at the Varnum v. Brien decision. And as Kathie also notes, if any or all of the three judges up for retention fail to be retained, the decision will still be in place and “same-sex marriage will still be legal [emphasis mine] in Iowa…”.

Mind you, “legal” in this case really goes as far as the administrative authorities accept it to be. It is still open to debate among many (myself included) whether the government administration is obliged to enact a judicially declared “law”. What makes the court’s action “legal” is more the acceptance of those who actually are expected to follow the law created by the legislature and approved by the Governor.

Although it is safe to say that the tensions that keep our society in balance are those that recognize the rule of law and and the overall desire to maintain order. It is in our self-interest to maintain order or we would drop into chaos. But it is dangerous for us to accept idly the unlawful action of a court when it, unelected and perceived to be the ultimate authority, decides to go beyond its bounds.

Regardless of what society as a whole is determined to do about marriage, it is wrong to allow the court to own the universal remedy as it has taken to doing in this case.

It is foolish to watch as the court takes power it does not and should not have. If we stand idly by, we allow tyranny to grow. It could take years or decades, but doing nothing will fuel its growth.

What is the People’s remedy? There are several (truly more than those listed here):

The People can demand that the Administration ignore the court’s order.

The People can change the Constitution to clarify the definition and scope of marriage.

The People can demand that the Legislature change the judicial selection process.

The People can change the Constitution to provide stricter constraints on the role of the Judiciary.

And the People can refuse to retain the judges who have tried to usurp power.

Or the People can just sit back and let the courts continue to amass power until we can no longer recognize our great state.

The retention vote process is not just a rubber stamp. It is the People’s only direct role in a process that we mostly watch from a distance as others choose those who could, if allowed, rule over us. This is how we keep them in check.

What will the vote mean?

I don’t think it will be a mandate on marriage, although it might be fair to see it as one, as much is it will be a statement of who holds power in Iowa.

Let it be the People.

About the Author

Mr. Smith is the Publisher of The Conservative Reader. He is Partner/Owner of Ambrosia Web Technology as well as a Systems Architect for Wells Fargo. Art hold a degree in Computer Science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a political blogger at the Des Moines Register. Art's views are purely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wells Fargo.


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