Three Iowa judges who were part of a unanimous ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, have been thrown out of office by voters in a retention election that's seen as a rebuke to what critics call "legislators in robes."
The outcome Tuesday was praised by opponents of gay marriage and opponents of judicial activism. But it troubled advocates of an independent judiciary, the New York Times
reported Thursday. Same-sex marriage will remain legal in Iowa, but the governor will replace the ousted state Supreme Court justices, picking from a slate of candidates assembled by a lawyers' committee.
"I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people," said Republican Bob Vander Plaats, who led the campaign against the justices. "It's we the people, not we the courts."
Conservative groups ran similar campaigns in other states using a merit selection system -- as opposed to being voted directly onto courts -- for picking state court judges, the Times said. However, judges survived retention elections in Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and Florida over issues ranging from abortion to tort reform.
The rejected Iowa justices -- Chief Justice Marsha K. Ternus, Michael J. Streit and David L. Baker -- each got about 45 percent of the vote. And 71 lower court judges in Iowa all kept their seats in retention voting. In a statement, the three decried the "unprecedented attack by out-of-state special interest groups."
"What is so disturbing about this is that it really might cause judges in the future to be less willing to protect minorities out of fear that they might be voted out of office," said Erwin Chemerinsky, law school dean at the University of California, Irvine.