In Iowa, Judges Are Ousted

Posted by Chris Geidner
November 3, 2010 1:16 AM |

In Iowa, which declared Iowa's marriage ban unconstitutional under the state's constitution in 2009, the National Organization for Marriage got one of its first electoral victories this year. The judicial retention elections appear to have resulted in the replacement of all three justices up for a vote this year.

Here, as of 3:35 a.m. and with 1767 out of 1774 precincts reporting, are the Iowa Secretary of State's election results:

Supreme Court Justice David L. Baker
Yes     443437     45.75%
No      525865     54.25%
 
Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Streit
Yes     442459     45.6%
No      527921     54.4%
 
Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus
Yes     437118     44.99%
No      534486     55.01%

The court was unanimous in its 2009 ruling that Iowa's constitution required marriage equality.

One Iowa executive director Carolyn Jenison wrote to supporters in an e-mail, "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.

"In the months and weeks ahead we can expect renewed attempts to overturn the freedom to marry and write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution," she wrote. "It will take a concerted and collective effort on the part of pro-equality Iowans to respond to these attacks and defend on our liberties."

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, meanwhile, said in a statement about the loss, "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."

Meanwhile, the Courage Campaign's Rick Jacobs said in the same statement, "Having seen its extremist agenda increasingly rejected by the courts and the American people, it is telling that NOM has now settled on a strategy of evading tax and election laws and trying to intimidate judges. These are the tactics one might expect from Al Capone, not a credible political organization."

It was not immediately clear whether Gov. Chet Culver (D) would replace the justices in the remaining time he is governor, or if they would be replaced by Gov.-elect Terry Branstad (R).

The push by some for a constitutional convention in the state, however, was exceptionally unsuccessful:

Constitutional Convention Question
Vote for 1     Precincts Reported 1659/1774
Yes     Non-Partisan     292147     32.71%
No     Non-Partisan     601039     67.29%

Read the full One Iowa message below the jump.

[UPDATE @ 3:15 AM: The justices released a 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

So, there's that.]

* * *

Friends,

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 on 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


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