In what can only be described as a historically unprecedented event, Iowans have voted not to retain all three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices. In other words, the three Supreme Court justices up for retention, including Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit, are all out of a job.
One of the main reasons for this outcome is a great unrest and dissatisfaction with the Court following the April 3, 2009, decision allowing for gay marriage in Iowa. In the weeks immediately following this decision, Democrat leaders in the state legislature refused to allow their members to even vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. With the amendment process effectively stalled, this retention election is the first opportunity Iowa voters have had to speak out on this decision, and they spoke loudly.
It should be remembered, however, that many voters had many other reasons for voting no on the judges. Some are still angry over the decision that set confessed killer Rodney Heemstra free after just a few years in prison by turning the felony murder doctrine on its ear. Some are upset about administrative issues that the Court oversees that have forced court closures across the state. Others look at decisions, like those in the taxation of gaming cases in which the court contradicted itself in a second opinion on the same subject, and see the judges shaping their rationale to fit a certain desired outcome. There is no doubt, however, that marriage is the biggest factor playing in to this outcome.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the state legislature this year. The people of Iowa have now demonstrated that they are willing to start kicking people to the curb over the issue of marriage. Perhaps that fact will be enough to motivate complacent legislators to finally get on board with a marriage amendment, and maybe even go around Mike Gronstal to do so.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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