Joe Mirabella

Iowa Supreme Court Justices Ousted For Marriage Equality Ruling

Filed By Joe Mirabella | November 03, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Iowa, Iowa Justices., One Iowa

Three of Iowa's Supreme Court Justices were up for a retention vote in Iowa on Tuesday. NOM spent millions trying to oust them after their unanimous Supreme Court ruling granting Same Sex marriage equality. Sadly, the judges were punished for simply saying that all Iowans are equal under the state constitution.

iowa.jpgThat's not the only bad news coming out of Iowa. Terry Branstad overtook pro-equality Chuck Culver for Governor. During the Iowa gubernatorial debates Terry Branstad made it very clear he thinks Iowans should vote on marriage equality.

Republicans in the legislature will have to pass a constitutional amendment two years in a row before Iowa's voters will have a chance to take away equality or do what's right and solidify equality for years to come.

Clearly after Tuesday's results, One Iowa has their work cut out for them. They worked tirelessly to protect the justices, but competing against NOM's seemingly bottomless pits of cash is difficult for a small state equality org. As a community we need to support One Iowa so they can protect marriage equality during the next three years. If we do not invest in Iowa now, marriage equality could be over in America's heartland.

Read a statement from the Justices after the jump.

The justices issues the following joint statement:

It was our great privilege to serve the people of Iowa for many years. Throughout our judicial service we endeavored to serve the people of Iowa by always adhering to the rule of law, making decisions fairly and impartially according to the law, and faithfully upholding the constitution.

We wish to thank all of the Iowans who voted to retain us for another term. Your support shows that many Iowans value fair and impartial courts. 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.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus
Associate Justice Michael Streit
Associate Justice David Baker

One Iowa
's Executive Director issued the following statement:


On April 3, 2009, Iowans celebrated a historic Iowa Supreme Court decision that granted the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. This ruling continued a long tradition of recognizing equal rights for all Iowans. It was a hard fought victory and we knew we would have to work very hard to protect it in the years ahead. Over the past year and a half Iowans have fought off and beaten back every attempt to diminish this ruling.

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. In addition, many of our pro-equality allies from Governor Culver to statehouse candidates lost their seats due to an anti-incumbent mood that swept the nation. We thank them for their distinguished service and we look forward to working with our newly elected legislature and Governor in the weeks and months ahead.

While the full implications of these election results remain to be seen, one thing remains the same.
The freedom to marry in Iowa remains intact.

In the months and weeks ahead we can expect renewed attempts to overturn the freedom to marry and write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution. 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.

This is no time to be discouraged. While our fight may be tireless, our mission is clear. Together, we will protect marriage equality and preserve Iowa's long tradition of equal rights for all.

With Gratitude,

Carolyn Jenison,
Executive Director

The Courage Campaign and Human Rights Campaign were quick to point out that NOM's goal was to intimidate judges throughout the country.

NOM's president Brian Brown has admitted (here) that his group's effort in Iowa's judicial election was actually about intimidating judges around the country into ruling against equality for millions of loving American families. In Iowa, NOM spent an unprecedented $600,000 on TV ads and a 45-county bus tour. Despite NOM's mean-spirited and fear-driven campaign, same-sex marriage remains legal in Iowa.

"By their own admission, NOM's Iowa strategy was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "NOM and its secret donors will target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process."

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | November 3, 2010 9:51 AM

I understand that as of this morning the outcome in the Iowa Senate is still unclear, but that it could remain under Democratic control. And Iowa's constitution requires two separate passes through two consecutively elected legislatures. And removing these three judges doesn't in and of itself alter the marriage equality decision.

What is part of the NOM/right-wing sham here is that they will more than likely introduce a state consitutional amendment that will not only cut off the knees of "activist judges", but would ALSO cripple future Iowa legislatures in doing the will of a changing populace in enacting anything meaningful concerning the rights and benefits of gay and lesbian couples. So much for popular democracy! Maybe One Iowa ought to point that out loud and clear as it continues its fight.

Lynn Miller | November 4, 2010 6:08 AM

At least the proposal to call a state constitutional convention was rejected by voters. The anti-gay groups were backing that proposal as a quicker way to restrict marriage.

There was something like 21 churches that said they would violate Federal election law by telling their parishioners how to vote.If I remember correctly it was Cornerstone Ministries.If indeed they did violate the law in any relation to the Judges being ousted we should push to have the validity of the election questioned.

Lynn Miller | November 4, 2010 6:05 AM

Amym, I think that if the churches did do this, they would merely be in trouble with the IRS. There wouldn't be grounds for challenging the election results.

Our Constitutional rights are supposed to be unalienable.Churches are not supposed to influence laws and by doing so have assaulted our basic rights.It goes much further than here in Iowa.There is also what happened in Arizona a state that voted down the first try at an anti gay marriage amendment.I really believe we should be studying each state constitutional amendment connect the dots and go for it. I have a radical idea that I may pitch to one Iowa and see if they'll support me on it.My idea will challenge the religious right head on and put them on the defensive in a way I don't believe they'll be able to overcome.

Regan DuCasse | November 4, 2010 1:01 PM

What about the Constitutional protection of minorities from the tyranny of a majority?!

This shouldn't have to be about marriage equality alone, but essentially that gays and lesbians as a PERPETUAL minority are tyrannized and are at risk because they don't have equal rights and protections.
Considering the fear mongering ads, the sorts of speeches that incite paranoia and distrust of gay people, it's clear the agenda is that gay people remain in a constant state that requires their participation in the responsibility of citizenship, but without any of it's rights by birth and individual merit.

The courts are obligated on that Constitutional aspect too.
This is really, really bad when that's completely ignored in the push to require that gay people have NO protections, however guaranteed by America's most important contract with it's own.

My idea addresses pretty much everything you said and it does so by putting a severe chink in Conservatives armor.It is time to reverse places with them. Let them see how it feels to justify their existence.

Lynn Miller | November 4, 2010 8:49 PM

Mike Gronsta is the Iowa Senate Majority Leader. H said today that despite the narrowed Democratic majority, he will continue to block consideration of a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage. Its a matter of principle.

Lynn Miller | November 4, 2010 8:51 PM

oops... I typoed his last name. I meant to write "Gronstal."

That's good but it's always better when you have a backup just in case.My idea I believe is pretty cool, could be fun and I'm telling you it will work on a national level and really put the far right between a rock and a hard place.I just need some support in setting up a non profit not a 501c but instead the political 504 whatever and some people that want to have fun and really make a difference.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | November 5, 2010 9:05 AM

Amym440, perhaps I missed it, but exactly what is your idea? Or is it something that needs a bit of secrecy at present to retain strategic suprise advantage? Don't mean to seem cynical, but there are a lot of "pie in the sky" legal theories that may make us all feel good but which in reality have little or no chance given judicial precedents, etc. Not presuming yours is one of them, but I think it wise to sort out the ideal from the practically do-able. Otherwise our movement unwittingly at times creates false expections and then discouraged when they don't materialize.

It needs to remain secret until some names are trademarked if they can be for a political group.This is no pie in the sky idea and I can assure you that it is a very American way to counter the religious right.