Rick Santorum

  • September 24, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Religious Right activists are again itching to hobble the judiciary by threatening its ability to remain independent from heavy-handed politicos. And again, the Religious Right, not surprisingly, is targeting a state court justice who had the audacity to join a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court in finding that a statewide law banning same-sex marriage violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

    In fall 2010 three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in that pro-equality ruling were voted off the bench in so-called retention votes. The effort to oust the judges was led primarily by Religious Right organizations, such as the National Organization for Marriage, which spent at least $200,000 to help reshape the Iowa Supreme Court, by yanking from the bench justices who supported the Iowa Constitution’s protection of fundamental rights. The American Family Association, a longtime Religious Right group, dedicated to demonizing the LGBT community was also instrumental in removing the Iowa Supreme Court justices.  

    Religious Right lobbyists obsessed with making life miserable for the LGBT community are mounting a concerted effort to yank Justice David Wiggins, another of the justices involved in the opinion, from the court. The Des Moines Register reports on the efforts of Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Religious Right lobbying group The Family Leader, and former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to rally Iowans to vote Wiggins (pictured) off the bench.

    Plaats and his group were also a major force in the 2010 effort to yank justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. The Family Leader describes itself as “a consistent, courageous voice in churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square … always standing for God’s truth.”

    At a rally this morning at the state capitol, former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum argued that the Iowa Supreme Court had sided with freedom over virtue, as Jens Manuel Krogstad wrote for the Register. Santorum and Plaats are on a bus tour of 17 cities to call for the ouster of Wiggins.

    Unlike 2010, the Religious Right effort to remake the state Supreme Court is being answered with an effort organized in part by attorneys and elected officials. The Register noted a counter rally at the capitol where speakers defended the independence of the courts.

  • January 3, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Steve Sanders, who teaches Sexuality and the Law, Family Law, and Constitutional Litigation at the University of Michigan Law School.


    Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who currently sits near the top of the Republican presidential field, raised eyebrows over the weekend for comments to NBC’s Chuck Todd on same-sex marriage. It’s old news, of course, that Santorum opposes such marriages (he has compared them to child abuse and bestiality). What was noteworthy about these latest comments was Santorum’s casual observation that, under the sort of federal ban he supports, not only could new marriages not be performed, but all existing same-sex marriages would be nullified. 

    This comment largely disappeared into the rivers of hype and frivolousness coming out of this year’s Iowa caucuses. Nonetheless, it gives us the opportunity to think seriously about the difference between marriage creation and marriage nullification, and whether they differ as matters of civil rights and liberties. I address this topic in a forthcoming article in the Michigan Law Review titled, “The Constitutional Right to (Keep Your) Same-Sex Marriage.” 

    If a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage were approved, Santorum was asked, “What would you do with same-sex couples who got married? Would you make them get divorced?” He replied, “Well, their marriage would be invalid. I think if the Constitution says ‘marriages are this,’ then people whose marriage is not consistent with the constitution….” At that point, he literally shrugged. (See the video here.)

    Granted, Rick Santorum is no one’s constitutional scholar. Still, it is stunning when someone who is being taken seriously as a presidential candidate (at least for this week) literally shrugs at the idea that the federal government might unilaterally void more than 130,000 perfectly legal marriages. After all, as a federal court observed in 1949, the “policy of the civilized world, is to sustain marriages, not to upset them.” Imagine the indignities and the hellish disruptions to lives, children, and property rights that Santorum’s policy would create. 

    Then, ponder the fact that right now we have laws in a majority of states that do pretty much the same thing. 

  • October 17, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    A couple of national newspaper columnists examine some numbers and commentary on poverty and economic inequality, as the Occupy Wall Street protests hit their one month anniversary with noted momentum.

    The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., notes in this piece, some comments on poverty rates of families made during a recent Republican presidential debate by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Essentially Santorum, a longtime advocate of Religious Right activists, argues that government should push policy that supports only families headed by mothers and fathers. “You can’t have a wealthy society if the family breaks down,” Santorum said.

    Dionne says Santorum “is broadly right,” citing a study by the National Center for Children in Poverty covering “the 2005 – 09 period,” that “5 percent of married family households were poor at some point within a given year, compared with 28.8 percent of single-parent households. For 2010, the figures were 8.4 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.”

    But instead of going off on a tangent about how government recognition of marriage for gay couples will render straight marriages meaningless, as Santorum often does, Dionne says “Liberals should acknowledge, as Obama has, that strengthening the family is vital to economic justice. Conservatives should acknowledge that economic justice is vital to strengthening families.”

    And Dionne points to some work in this area by Harry Holzer, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, and Peter Edelman, an ACS Board member and longtime advocate for tackling poverty in America.

    In a 2006 book published by the Urban Institute, Holzer, the late Paul Offner, and Edelman (pictured) tackle “the thorny challenge of getting ‘disconnected’ young men back in school or the workforce.”

    The book, Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men, focuses on African American and Hispanic men “because young women have made more progress in recent years and their prospects have been spotlighted in discussions of welfare reform and other social changes,” a press statement about the publication says.

  • August 5, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Steve Sanders, visiting assistant professor, University of Michigan Law School


    The political media are about to begin obsessing over the Iowa Republican straw poll, scheduled for Saturday, August 13.  Recent commentary has focused on how religious conservatives have gained a chokehold on Iowa GOP politics.  Evangelical Christian activists remain outraged at the 2009 decision of the Iowa Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.  Last fall, they mounted a well-funded campaign to oust three of the justices who signed that ruling.  Their TV ads  – juxtaposing footage of villainish-looking "liberal, out of control judges" against images of hunters in camouflage and a chubby kid saluting the flag – accused the justices of "ignoring our traditional values" and "imposing their own values."

    Now, activist Bob Vander Plaats, who led the anti-court jihad, is pressuring presidential candidates to sign something called "The Marriage Vow," which includes a pledge of "[v]igorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc."  Religious-right darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were the first candidates to enthusiastically sign up.

    The picture of Iowa we get from the mainstream media through next year's caucuses is likely to be of a state in the grip of militant Tea Partiers and theocrats.  That would be a shame, because the agenda of these particular activists – with their narrow view of social equality and hostility toward an independent judiciary – is unfaithful to the state's social and legal heritage.

  • July 13, 2011

    Politicians seeking the Republican presidential nomination are splitting over how closely they want to associate with a Religious Right Iowa group dubbed FAMiLY LEADER, and comedians are having a field day with the organization’s blatantly bigoted “marriage vow” pledge, but in a column for the Des Moines Register Graham Gillette says the group’s “nonsense” is not that funny. (Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, a longtime darling of the Religious Right, have both signed the pledge. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney has distanced himself from the so-called “Marriage Vow” pledge, TPMDC reports.)

    The group, led by Bob Vander Plaats, who helped lead the efforts to oust the Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled that the state’s anti-gay marriage law is unconstitutional, has a long and tawdry record of using his Christian Right platform to trash the LGBT community. RightWingWatch notes that Plaats “is also tied to an effort that likened being gay to being a cigarette smoker and once said that allowing equal marriage rights for gay couples threatened the system of private property and gun-ownership rights. One former adviser said that Vander Plaats is ‘obsessed with the gay marriage issue.’”  

    The group’s website describes itself as a “consistent, courageous voice in the churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square … always standing for God’s truth.”

    The group’s marriage vow pledge, which it asked the Republican candidates to sign, included in its original preamble the wildly bigoted claim that “African-American families were more secure under slavery than they are today, under an African-American president,” TPMDC reports. That language, TPMDC notes, has since been removed from the pledge.

    The marriage vow, however, still includes some laughably outlandish language.

    For example its preamble states, “Faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order – as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders – upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend.”

    Moreover “marriage fidelity,” only between men and women “protects innocent children, vulnerable women, the rights of fathers, the stability of families, and the liberties of all American citizens under our republican form of government.”

    The historical inaccuracy and general idiocy of the marriage pledge obviously doesn’t matter to Plaats, and apparently neither to the politicos who have agreed to peddle his far-right “nonsense.”