Faith group supports retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices

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DES MOINES — Some Iowa faith-based groups are encouraging voters to retain the state’s Supreme Court justices despite the opposition of other faith-based groups opposed to by the high court’s 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.

Members of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa held a news conference Thursday outside the Iowa Judicial Building, which houses the state Supreme Court chamber, to support retention of the high court’s justices.

“I’m here because I fear that three fine justices may not be retained on Nov. 8 due to misleading rhetoric and a misunderstanding about the role of the court in this historic case and others,” said the Rev. Mark Stringer of First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. “I fear that religious extremists with an agenda to impose their views on our state may succeed in deceiving too many of us into politically motivated and misguided attempts at revenge.”

Interfaith Alliance members said Thursday they oppose that effort.

“We are certainly encouraged by the idea that there is less opposition to the retention elections this year, but we are taking nothing for granted,” said Connie Ryan, executive director of the Alliance.

“But there are voices, certainly, out there that are opposed to this, and we want to make sure that Iowans understand the importance of the retention election, how you vote on a retention election, and that it is nonpartisan and that politics should not be inserted into it.”

Iowa Supreme Court justices are nominated by the governor and retained by voters. When a justice’s eight-year term expires, he or she is placed on the ballot, and voters decide whether the justice should continue to serve.

This year, three justices who were a part of the unanimous 2009 decision that legalized same-sex marriage are up for retention — Justices Brent Appel and Daryl Hecht and Chief Justice Mark Cady, who wrote that 2009 ruling in Varnum v. Brien.

In 2010, some religious organizations upset with the Varnum ruling mounted a successful campaign to oust three Supreme Court justices, including then-Chief Justice Marsha Ternus. The group tried again in 2012 with David Wiggins, another Varnum justice, but advocacy groups mounted their own successful campaign to defend Wiggins, who was retained.

Family Leader, the lead group in the 2010 and 2012 anti-retention campaign, says on its website, “We encourage Iowans to vote against retaining those judges who have used their office for political activism.”

For all of The Gazette's Election 2017 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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