10/27/2010 02:24 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Iowa Democrats Not Alone In Support Of Gay Rights Amid Attack On Judges

Iowa Democrats have put their support behind the three State Supreme Court judges targeted by conservative activists for their 2009 unanimous decision in favor of same-sex marriage.

Former Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob Vander Plaats, announced in the summer he was going to head a new campaign called Iowa For Freedom, aimed at kicking out three of the state's high court justices who were part of Varnum v. Brien which declared a state ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Iowa Democrats have struck back.

"What is it about the separation of powers [Vander Plaats] doesn't understand?" said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "We have judicial, legislative, executive; it's the judicial branch's responsibility to decide whether a law is constitutional or not, that's their sworn obligation."

Harkin is not up for reelection, but while campaigning with his fellow Iowa Democrats, he has repeatedly brought up protecting same-sex marriage and the justices on the state's Court. He spent much of his speech at the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Oct. 16 remarking that Iowa's ruling on marriage was within a long tradition of protecting civil rights in the state; Iowa outlawed slavery and segregation years before the US Supreme Court.

Iowa's Democratic Gov. Chet Culver faces an uphill reelection bid against Terry Branstad, a former Iowa governor who signed the ban on same-sex marriage into law in his final term in 1998.

Culver originally said he would "do whatever it takes" to protect one man-one woman marriages. He remained silent in the days following the decision and eventually emerged to say he would not challenge the decision.

"It has not had an effect on the state of Iowa, other than allowing people to make their own decisions." Culver said in the second Iowa gubernatorial debtate, "We should not write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution."

In the third debate, he said he would be voting "yes" on retention, and even attended a fundraiser for One Iowa's Fairness Fund on Oct. 8th.

Vander Plaats told the Huffington Post Culver "washed his hands like Pontius Pilate and did nothing -- stayed silent" in the days following the Court's decision after promising to stand for one man-one woman marriages, and only now supports it in an attempt to raise money and support from his base.

"He knows he's endanger of being defeated," Vander Platts said, "At the end of the day if he's going to go down in defeat he wants to have his base with him."

But several prominent Iowa Republicans and Democrats, including Vander Plaats' own former secretary and treasurer of his gubernatorial campaigns, Republican Dan Moore, and Branstad's Republican predecessor Gov. Robert Ray and Branstad's lieutenant governor at the time the state's Defense of Marriage Act was signed, Republican Joy Corning, have joined groups to rally against the anti-retention campaigns.

"We're mounting a very energetic campaign to not let that happen," Harkin said. "It would simply throw us back again to the dark ages if they were defeated based upon a decision they made, a unanimous decision."

The groups also include Christie Vilsack, wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Democrat Sally Pederson, who served as lieutenant governor of Iowa under Tom Vilsack.

Vander Plaats dismisses the campaigns as artificial attempts to keep the status quo.

"First of all, we've had a lot of people who joined our effort who are Democrat, who are independent, they're union members, who are definitely voting the justices off," Vander Plaats said. "I think you're seeing the ruling class bond together, and you always do when you threaten the establishment they're going to put partisan affiliations aside and bond together."