In a statement that is as unseemly as the example of judicial activism that gave rise to their removal from office, three former Iowa Supreme Court justices are blaming “out-of-state interests” for their loss on Election Day.
The evidence seems clear that the three judges who were not retained by Iowa voters lost their offices because of the unsupportable ruling they joined in April 2009 that invented a state constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Of the 74 Iowa judges statewide who were subject to retention votes last week, only Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit were removed—a fair indication that Iowa voters do not deplore an independent judiciary but only rogue judges who put on political garb and trample upon the constitutional role of the representative branches.
Moreover, Iowa voters did not engage in this exercise as an empty gesture. Last Tuesday, they also elected a legislature and governor who are reportedly more amenable to moving a state constitutional amendment that will restore the definition of marriage that Iowans had always maintained until the judicial ukase of 2009. That amendment must be approved by two consecutive legislatures and then placed on the ballot for voter approval. This is a long-term process that is designed to protect the state constitution from impulsive and ill-advised amendments.
The retention vote, in turn, allows Iowans to weigh in more or less promptly when it is the justices themselves who, through their rulings, engage in impulsive and ill-advised amendment of the state constitution’s meaning. Protecting marriage in Iowa proved to be very much an “in-state interest,” and that is what likely has the former justices’ robes in, well, a twist.