So now that the Iowa Supreme Court has essentially legalized gay marriage, what’s next? Some right-wingers (like Iowa Congressman Steve King and William Duncan of the Marriage Law Foundation) are already promising to put a defense of marriage amendment in front of Iowa voters. But they have a long road ahead of them. Iowa law says that a constitutional ammendment must pass TWO consecutive sessions of the state legislature before it appears on a ballot. So the earliest one could see a DOMA on the ballot is 2011, but with Democrats in control of both houses and with both the House speaker and the Senate majority leader on record supporting the decision–there’s virtually no chance that such an amendment would even come up for a vote this session.
That leaves the right-wing with a daunting task: defeat enough Democrats to take control of both houses (Dems currently enjoy a 56-44 and 32-18 advantage), replace them with Christian right Republicans who are willing to champion a marriage amendement and peel off enough remaining Democrats (to offset any moderate GOP defectors) to squeeze through four rounds of yes votes. Only then will they even have the chance to put the issue in front of voters–sometime in 2013 or 2014 if all the stars align. Then, they still have to win that campaign in a political climate in which increasing numbers of voters support gay rights. Oh yeah, and the vote will take place after Iowans have witnessed 5-6 years of ho-hum same-sex nuptials of which the most radical, earth-shaking element is that one of the grooms is a 50-year old church organist named Otter Dreaming (one of the named appellees in the Iowa decision). As Ari Berman points out, Iowa isn’t exactly the hotbed of culture war antagonism–despite being square one for GOP presidential wrangling–so my strong hunch is that Mr. Dreaming’s marriage will endure at least any legal and political challenges.
So with the Prop 8 route effectively closed to them, what will Iowa’s right wing do? They might try to mount a campaign to recall the "activist judges" that voted for same-sex marriage (one tactic recently suggested by Christian right activists in California). Except here they run into political and formal roadblocks. First, the decision was unanimous–signed by all seven justices on the court, including two appointed by a Republican governor (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justice Mark Cady). It will be difficult for the right to smear any one of them in particular. Second, the justices are appointed by the governor, now Democrat Chet Culver, who isn’t exactly a fan of gay marriage, but the idea that he’d refuse to reappoint any of these justices is laughable. Third, the Iowa right could try to impeach the justices as payback, but impeachment in Iowa requires a majority of the House and then conviction by 2/3 of the Senate. If the right has the votes to do that, they’d go after a DOMA in the first place.