Iowa Supreme Court Justices Honored for Their Courage

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May 8, 2012

Three of the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of Lambda Legal's landmark case establishing marriage equality in Iowa received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Monday.

Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and former justices David Baker and Michael Streit were kicked off the bench in a 2010 retention vote, following the Court's unanimous decision in Varnum v. Brien.

Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor, who led the Varnum case, congratulated the justices:

Chief Justice Ternus, Justice Streit, and Justice Baker took an oath to defend the Iowa Constitution and earned their place in history when they lived up to their oath with integrity and did the right thing before much of the rest of the country was ready. We all rely on judges to their jobs faithfully without regard to public opinion. We congratulate them on this much deserved high honor.

The awards were presented in a ceremony Monday at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, with foundation president Carolyn Kennedy in attendance. At the ceremony, Justice Baker described the fallout of the Varnum decision:

We were called activist judges—elitist, out of touch with the will of the people—and frankly, a lot worse. I am comfortable with my vote in that case, and even if I had known what would have occurred, I would not have changed my vote. We fulfilled our role as judges.

Justice Ternus told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni:

The important thing that happened wasn’t us losing our jobs. It's what it represents about what people think of justice and the rule of law and constitutional rights.

Read more about the Varnum case and the retention vote here and here.