Iowa justices get the boot


All three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention this month have been given the boot.

The Iowa Secretary of State website shows only 45 percent of voters said “Yes” to retention 55 percent said “No.”

The vote sends a chilling message to other justices who face retention votes and must rule on the constitutionality of laws that adversely affect LGBT people.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit agreed with a unanimous opinion of the seven-member bench that ruled in 2009 that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to marriage licensing.

The three justices issued a joint statement, saying it had been their “great privilege” to serve and that they had tried to uphold the law. They urged Iowans to support the state’s “merit selection system for appointing judges.”

“This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else,” said the statement. “Ultimately, however, the preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.”

Justices in Iowa are appointed by the governor but must stand for “retention” at the end of their first year and the end of each eight-year term. Groups unhappy with the 2009 ruling turned the retention election for into a referendum on same-sex marriage. Those groups included the anti-gay American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

The Des Moines Register reported last week that NOM has spent $200,000 in television ads to oppose the justices’ retention.

Another coalition—a bipartisan one—formed to support the justices’ retention. It was headed up by Republican former Governor Robert Ray and Democratic former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack.

The Register quoted a Vanderbilt University law professor last week as saying “It is virtually unheard of for a judge to lose a retention race.” In fact, noted the Register, this is the first time voters have chosen not to retain a justice.

The paper said that exit polls indicated that voters based their decision on the court’s decision in the gay marriage case.

Interestingly, noted the Register, state district court Judge Robert Hanson, who issued the initial ruling for marriage equality that led to the state supreme court appeal, was retained in voting Tuesday with 66 percent voting yes. Another judge, Scott Rosenberg, who signed a waiver that enabled one gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Iowa before Hanson’s ruling was stayed, was retained with 69 percent of the vote.

9 Responses to Iowa justices get the boot

  1. Randy says:

    Any new justices will rule the same way, because they simply have no choice. The law is the law. Those who hijacked the vote turning it into a referendum on same-sex marriage have simply cost the state a bundle of money and time, having to locate replacements.

  2. Suite Jimmibee says:

    Hallelujah! Go, Iowa voters! Awesome! Great job! Now deal with the other judges when they come up for retention!

  3. So Happy says:

    This needed to happen. Iowa is not a gay state and, as residents, we were all shocked. No matter what the media tells you we were all shocked. These people needed out. Glad Iowans stood up.

  4. California Observer says:

    Sad Day for Iowa and for tolerance. I’d like to remind So Happy that Alabama was not a racially tolerant state either fifty years ago and plenty of Alabama citizens “stood up” for racism… didn’t make it right.

  5. Unhappy Iowan says:

    There are no ‘gay’ states. There are states that promote equality, and those that don’t. This is a dark day for Iowa.

  6. JFE says:

    I agree with SoHappy; Iowa is not a gay state. Neither are any of the 50 states. It’s too bad that people can’t learn to live together with equal rights.

    The last paragraph of this article is the most interesting. The original justices who determined that one can marry one of the same gender and have the same rights and responsibilities opposite-sex couples have were retained with supermajorities, which just goes to show you what a witch hunt it was to remove Ternus, Baker, and Streit.

  7. thedemon says:

    The ignorance shown recently makes me ashamed to have been born in Iowa. First off, no matter what the vote was, whoever gets elected into those positions now will also push for gay marriage. That’s called progressive thinking. It’s what our country wants as a majority and Iowa doesn’t want to be labeled as a cowarding state of biggots. Second off, of all the issues that need to be faced by voters, this is the least of them! Why make this into such a big deal then be proud of the fact that you live in a state that won’t allow the right to marriage to every individual equally? It’s just another way to be a racist without having to come out and say it. Grouping together to hate or hold back the rights of a certain group of people is the same thing as racists do to minorities. It’s inferior thinking and embarassing to Iowa. Focus your attention on the drug dealers, rapists, child molestors, and murderers that have more rights in this state than two people that just wish to have a legitimate union together!

  8. SG says:

    Any notion that judges are just robots who mechanically apply “the law” is pretty ridiculous. Flexible and non-specific documents like Constitutions have to be interpreted from a worldview or background. The backgrounds and motivating principles of judges have a lot to do with what “the law” is.

  9. John says:

    When judges are subjected to the political process and the whim of the pitch-fork wielding mob, any notion of separation of powers is a sham, the bedrock principal of an independent judiciary is reduced to a travesty, there is no mechanism to protect minorities from majority tyranny, and the fundamental bedrock of our democracy is ground to dust. Sandra Day O’Connor has been warning of this for years.

    This is exactly why the California Supreme Court failed its duty on Prop 8 – they cowered before the ignorant mob! And it’s a perfect example of why our own LGBT leadership has failed us miserably and wasted valuable time dicking around in state courts where the notion of an independent judiciary does not exist. We should have been in the federal courts long ago. And WHO is winning our rights in the federal courts? The Republican Log Cabin Club! Which has made liberal gay Democrats look like toothless neutered lap dogs.

    Chris Hedges is spot on: the Liberal class is pathetic.

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