Iowa Justices Who Legalized Gay Marriage—And Got Booted For It—Honored With JFK Profile In Courage Awards

There is almost always a price to pay for standing up and doing the right thing. For Iowa Supreme Court Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit—who unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional—it was a steep price indeed: In the November 2010 elections, all three were voted off the bench by the electorate.

But now they’re achieving a moral victory, as three of the recipients of this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award (right), an honor given to those public servants who disregard personal or professional consequences in heeding their consciences.

“This year’s Profile in Courage Award honorees have shown uncommon valor as public servants,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “When Justices Baker, Streit, and Ternus joined a unanimous decision to overturn a law denying same-sex couples the privileges of marriage, they sacrificed their own futures on the Court to honor Iowa’s constitution and the rights of all its citizens.”

If they gave out a Profile in Cowardice Award, it should go to the National Organization for Marriage and American Family Association, the out-of-state groups who masterminded the aggressive campaign to Ternus et al voted out.

The Profile in Courage award is presented each year at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29.


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  • Andreas Lights

    Shouldn’t the other judges receive the same award as well? Why shouldn’t they be recognized? Simply because they weren’t ousted? They took the same risk, but just weren’t up for retention that time around.

  • MikeE

    @Andreas Lights: no they didn’t “take the same risk”. you answered your own question: they weren’t up for “retention” (I don’t know what it’s called either, so there.. it’s not election.. it’s what?) that year. Their decision would have no immediate impact on their positions as judges.

    Te judges who showed courage were those who took a stance, knowing it could or would have an immediate impact on their positions as sitting judges. If I recall, they were also threatened with being ousted from the bench before this decision came to a judgment.

  • Jase

    @MikeE: I agree with you. No different than say a Senator taking a risk in a year they are up for reelection vs a senator who is not up for another 6 years when the risk will likely be forgotten.

    (btw, it is indeed called a retention election)

Comments are closed.