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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 5, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 45
Pro-equality Iowa judges ousted
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Pro-equality Iowa judges ousted

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality were among the casualties of this week's election.

With more than 96% of the vote counted, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit had less than the majority they needed to stay on the court.

Their last day on the court will be December 31.

Their removal marks the first time an Iowa Supreme Court justice has not been retained since retention elections for judges were first adopted in 1962.

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages on April 3, 2009.

The three ousted justices were the first group required to stand for retention after the decision. In all, there are seven justices on the Iowa high court.

Anti-Gay activists said the campaign to remove the justices was the opening salvo in a national campaign against Gay civil rights.

Led by the Mississippi-based American Family Association, their effort was aided by groups such as Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, Georgia-based Faith & Freedom Coalition, and New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage.

The anti-Gay organizations spent more than $1 million to oust the judges, with the campaign culminating in a 20-city bus tour across Iowa urging voters to kick the judges off the bench.

Leaders of the effort said that removing the judges would set the stage for a fight over marriage equality and Gay rights in Iowa and across the country.

Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley said the vote to remove the three justices was 'God's will.'

'God is our ultimate authority, and we think that we did God's will by standing up to the three judges who would try to redefine God's institution and say that marriage is anything other than one man and one woman,' Hurley said.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told Iowa voters that if they voted No on retention, 'You will send a message that goes around this country that Americans have had enough and we're taking our country back and we're starting right here in Iowa with this Supreme Court.'

Bob Vander Plaats, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and spokesperson for the anti-Gay forces, told Radio Iowa on election night that 'history's being made.'

'[T]he rest of the country is going to hear our voice,' Vander Plaats added.

Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, wrote on his blog that he hoped the vote would be enough to 'motivate complacent legislators to finally get on board with a marriage amendment, and maybe even go around Mike Gronstal to do so.'

Gronstal, the Democratic leader in the Iowa Senate, has repeatedly promised he would never allow such an amendment to come up for a vote.

During the 2010 session, advocates for an amendment came just five votes shy of forcing a vote on marriage over Gronstal's objections. Republican control of the Iowa House and gains in the Senate will make it even more difficult for Gronstal to hold off the measure.

In a joint statement, the justices thanked the Iowans who supported them for another term.

'Your support shows that many Iowans value fair and impartial courts,' the statement said.

'We also want to acknowledge and thank all the Iowans, from across the political spectrum and from different walks of life, who worked tirelessly over the past few months to defend Iowa's high-caliber court system against an unprecedented attack by out-of-state special interest groups.'

Carolyn Jenison, executive director of the LGBT-rights group One Iowa, told the Des Moines Register that the 'courageous justices who recognized the freedom to marry in Iowa fell victim to a perfect storm of electoral discontent and out-of-state special interest money.'

'In the months and weeks ahead, we can expect renewed attempts to overturn the freedom to marry and write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution,' Jenison continued. 'It will take a concerted and collective effort on the part of pro-equality Iowans to respond to these attacks and defend our liberties. We hope you'll join us.'

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