Bus tour backs candidates who oppose ‘anti-family policies’

Iowa social conservatives, expressing optimism about the Nov. 4 election, launched a statewide bus tour Monday to promote candidates opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion and other “anti-family policies.”

The Family Leader, headed by conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, kicked off the four-day trip with a news conference outside the Iowa Capitol. The initiative is co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and the Faith Family Freedom Fund, an affiliate of FRC Action political action committee,

“I think the country is waking up to the leadership that has been going on in Washington and the left’s agenda. I think this election is going to be a complete repudiation of these anti-family policies,” Vander Plaats said.

The nine-city tour, titled, “Standing for the American Family,” is particularly backing the campaigns of four Republicans who have taken stances in support of traditional marriage and against abortion. They include U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, as well as 3rd District Congressional candidate David Young, 1st District Congressional candidate Rod Blum, and 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King.

“These candidates are deeply concerned about the issues impacting the family and our broader culture,” said Connie Mackey of Washington, D.C., who heads the FRC Action political action committee. She added, “Iowans have an opportunity to send a message at the ballot box that will be heard across the entire country.”

Tamara Scott of Norwalk, an Iowa National Republican committeewoman and state director of Concerned Women for America, said there is a quiet confidence building as social conservatives look to the upcoming election.

“We have been listening to candidates. We have been vetting them and asking them the tough questions, and we are very excited about the possibilities we have,” Scott said.

Vander Plaats said the tour sponsors are also supporting Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s reelection campaign and the GOP candidacy of Mariannette Miller-Meeks for the 4th District Congressional seat, as well as Republicans seeking to gain control of the Iowa Senate. But the four candidates specifically endorsed by the tour had reached out to social conservatives for support, which is why their names are painted on the side of the tour bus, organizers said.

If Republicans gain control of the Iowa Senate and maintain a majority of the Iowa House on Nov. 4, Vander Plaats indicated it’s likely that efforts will be made to overturn a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. However, he indicated that lawmakers wouldn’t necessarily push for a statewide referendum for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He suggested other legislation might be considered to avoid having judges strike down an Iowa prohibition on same-sex marriage.

Although federal courts have been striking down state constitutional bans against same-sex marriage across the country, Vander Plaats said federal judges have been doing supporters of one-man, one-woman marriage a favor by awakening a sleeping giant that will revolt against the court rulings.

“I think you are seeing the churches wake up. I think you are seeing the conservatives wake up and they are going to double down,” Vander Plaats said. “Some people are saying , “You people have to forget about marriage and move on. That thing is a done deal.” Absolutely not.”

The issue of same-sex marriage will become like the 1970s Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the United States, Vander Plaats predicts. “The country is way more pro-life today than it has ever been, and you are going to see that with marriage as well. Marriage is not about Susie and Mary wanting to have a garden next to you. It is the tentacles that go into every fabric of society,” including business, education and other areas.

“You are seeing this agenda for what it is, and they are saying it is time we get back to some common sense and some core principles. We are optimistic about that,” Vander Plaats said.

Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization, issued a statement critical of the social conservatives’ bus tour.

“Sadly, this misguided bus tour and its hurtful rhetoric do not represent the rich diversity of families in Iowa and across the nation–a diversity that includes race, culture, freedom of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and so much more,” Red Wing said. “At One Iowa, we work toward a future where all families will be respected without bias, where the extraordinary freedoms of America are accessible to all, including its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. We know we are winning in our struggle for LGBT equality. We know that this bus tour is simply an outdated reaction to this new reality.”

Red Wing also pointed out that in 2010, three members of the Iowa Supreme Court were ousted by voters in a statewide election because of a retention campaign led by the Family Leader and its allies, including the National Organization for Marriage.

“This constant attack against our valued judicial system must stop,” Red Wing said. “We must celebrate our courts as we work toward a judiciary that is representative, inclusive and fair no matter what the cost. What’s more, Iowa has enjoyed marriage equality for over 5 years now with a majority of Americans supporting the freedom to marry. The culture has changed so much in the last few years around the important issue of marriage, and yet the Family Leader and its partners still have their feet stuck in the mud. It’s time to move on.”

Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, said The Family Leader misunderstands family values.

“Many Iowans, including from the faith community, are outraged when Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader boldly define “family values” from a perspective that leaves many Iowa families behind,” Ryan Terrell said.

Ryan Terrell said The Family Leader is not concerned about moving families up and out of poverty by raising the minimum wage, improving public education, or providing equal protection so that all families have the same rights

“Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader do not speak for the majority of Iowans, including people of faith, who believe in “family values” that support all families,” Ryan Terrell said.

Read the article from The Des Moines Register.