In 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that legalized same sex marriage in the state. Opponents of the ruling eventually centered their discontent on a movement to vote each of the nine justices off the bench. A 1962 merit selection and retention system, which gives voters in Iowa the opportunity to remove judges from the bench, afforded them the means, and they carefully crafted a campaign to convince Iowans that the justices had subverted the will of the people as opposed to merely interpreting state law and its constitution.
Little hope of job retention
With polls closing, early returns indicate that the three justices who are up for retention this year will lose their seats on the court. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker and Justice Michael Streit need a simple majority to retain their seats but with each lagging under 50%, it’s unlikely they will reach it.
Their removal marks the first time since the implementation of the retention system that any judge has been voted off the bench by Iowans.
Judges in Iowa are non-partisan and because of this the judges targeted by an anti-gay marriage faction lead by Bob Vander Plaat refused to campaign for their seats on the bench. In exit polls 8 out of 10 Iowans seemed to believe that the judges had created a new law with their ruling on the legality of same sex marriage rather than simply interpret the State of Iowa’s existing laws and constitution.
by Peaco Todd
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