Iowa Judges Booted for Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

Three Iowa Supreme Court judges yesterday lost their seats in the wake of a concerted effort by out-of-state anti-LGBT activists who opposed the Court's unanimous 2009 decision allowing marriage for same-sex couples in that state.

Since 1962, Iowa Supreme Court justices, who are appointed, have faced a retention vote after their first year of service and at regular intervals after that. This election cycle, three of the jurists were up for a retention vote -- Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker and Justice Michael Streit. All three lost their seats, marking the first time ever that a retention vote in Iowa has tossed judges off the bench.

Out-of-state conservative interests opposed to same-sex marriage, like Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into opposing the judges for their role in legalizing same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples still have the right to marry in Iowa, for now -- the judges' removal doesn't change the state constitution. It's likely St. Louis-area couples will continue to make the journey to Iowa to wed their partners, as a dozen did last Friday on a bus chartered by Show Me No Hate, the local marriage equality group.

But the historic ouster is being touted by the same-sex marriage foes as a shot across the bow.

In a statement prior to the election, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "The Iowa Supreme Court ruled as irrelevant millennia of tradition and the views of a large majority of Iowans that marriage is and always should be between one man and one woman. This is not the court's role."

On the web site of the Human Rights Campaign, a group focused on civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, president Joe Solmonese had this to say:

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

The judges continue to serve until the end of 2010, when three new ones will be appointed.

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