Iowa Voters AXE Judges Over Gay Marriage Ruling

11/03/2010 05:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • TylerKingkade Senior political reporter at the Iowa State Daily

DES MOINES, Iowa -- In an unprecedented move, and after a nearly three month long campaign by conservative activists, Iowa voters chose not to retain three state Supreme Court justices who helped overturn a ban on same-sex marriage in the state.

Yesterday, Iowans ousted Justices Michael Streit and David Baker and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus.

Groups based out-of-state like the American Family Association, Citizens United, the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage were large supporters of the push to oust the judges.

NOM declared it a victory and suggested more efforts would be coming nationwide.

"Tonight we made history, we led on freedom and the rest of the country is going to hear our voice," said Bob Vander Plaats, head of Iowa For Freedom, a project of the AFA, in a released statement, reiterating what was a theme of sending a message to the nation throughout a 20-city Judge Bus tour the week before elections.

Despite the apparent conservative victory, the fact is same-sex marriage will stand as legal.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by then-Gov. Terry Branstad in 1998; Branstad was elected to become Iowa's governor once again Tuesday, defeating Democratic incumbent Gov. Chet Culver.

In an email sent to supporters Wednesday morning, Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa said the resulting vote represented an attack on equality.

In this election, three of 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," Jenison said. "In addition, many of our pro-equality allies from Gov. Culver to statehouse candidates lost their seats due to an anti-incumbent mood that swept the nation.

Under Iowa law, Culver could still appoint three justices to replace them before he leaves office. Culver released a statement saying he was reviewing the judicial selection process as to how it pertains to fulfilling multiple vacancies created at once.

Dan Moore, attorney and former secretary/treasurer of Vander Plaats' gubernatorial campaigns, and avid supporter of retaining the justices, attested part of their problem was they could not fit their message of voting "yes" on a bumper sticker.

But with interest by Republicans in Iowa such as Branstad to take action concerning traditional marriage, Jenison said another fight lays ahead.

"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 said.

Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center said supporters should vote "no" on all lower court judges on the ballot as well, but only the Supreme Court justices got the boot.

"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," said Hurley in an interview with the AFA's

In a statement released late Tuesday, the three Supreme Court justices took direct aim at the conservative groups:

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.

Finally, we hope Iowans will continue to support Iowa'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. 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.