Iowa Voters Kick Out 3 Judges Who Overturned State Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

By Pete Winn | November 3, 2010 | 3:47 PM EDT

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), shown here at an anti-health-care rally in March 2010, said on Wednesday, April 14, that America’s capitalist and free market economic system is in peril because President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are moving toward socialism. ( Starr)

( – In a historic move, voters in Iowa kicked out three State Supreme Court justices over their 2009 decisions to allow same-sex couples to marry.

“All three of them lost their retention in last night's election,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Tuesday.

“It’s the first time in the history of the state that three Supreme Court justices have been turned out and have been directed to clean out their desks, especially because of the decision they made on marriage,” he said.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit needed a simple majority to stay on the bench, but 54 percent of voters said no to their retention – the first time since 1962 that any justices have been rebuffed.

“It’s something that will send a resounding message all across the country, and I think that every judge in the judicial branch of every state will learn about this decision by Iowans,” King said. “We’ve been a little soft on the social issues lately, and we turned the corner last night.”

Iowa's seven justices ruled in April 2009 that the law defining marriage to be a relationship between one man and one woman violated the state constitution's equal-protection provision and ordered that homosexuals be allowed to marry. The decision turned Iowa into the first Midwestern state to sanction same-sex marriage.

King, who had helped craft the language of Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act as a state lawmaker, said Iowans were voting to correct a problem with out-of-control judges.

“We understand that marriage is between a man and a woman, that debate already took place in 1998 in Iowa,” King said.

“This debate was about reinforcing the authority of the people and about asserting that we would rather have constitutional and lawful decisions by judges," said King, and "that ignoring the law and ignoring the constitution and bending it to their will in such a way as they did, that Iowans can understand the constitution and the rule of law a lot better than the lawyers think they can, and they can understand the law a lot better than some of the judges.”

Bob Vander Plaats, the Sioux City businessman who led the effort to turn out the judges, said the vote was an affirmation of “We the People.”

“This night didn’t have to happen,” Vander Plaats said.

“If our Supreme Court would have stayed within their constitutional boundaries, this night did not have to happen,” Vander Plaats said. “But when they went outside of their constitutional boundaries and they made law from the bench and they executed from the bench and they amended the constitution form the bench – every one of our freedoms came up for grabs. Not just marriage – every one of our freedoms. That’s why this night had to happen.”

In a statement issued early Tuesday, the three justices said only that they hoped Iowans would 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,” the judges said. “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."