COUNCIL BLUFFS — Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins will keep his seat, despite an effort by conservatives to oust him from the bench.
The judge had been the target of an effort spearheaded by Bob Vander Plaats, a three-time candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, after Wiggins and the rest of the court unanimously ruled in 2009 that an Iowa law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Their decision made Iowa the third state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriage, and the first not on one of the coasts.
The decision triggered an outcry among conservatives and led to a successful 2010 effort to remove the three justices up for retention that year.
But this time, Vander Plaats and his supporters had to contend with the Iowa State Bar Association and others who fought to keep Wiggins.
“We hope and believe that the retention of the judges and justices on the ballot this year will discourage future attempts to influence the retention process through the infusion of money and partisan politics,” Iowa Bar Association President Cynthia Moser, said in a statement on election night.
Wiggins' supporters saw Tuesday's vote as key to preserving the judiciary's independence. Opponents saw it as a way to curb what they viewed as judicial activism.
“We are confident that Iowa's judges will continue to make decisions based on the law and will not allow political influence and campaign money to impact their decisions,” Moser said.
Wiggins was the only justice on the court at the time of the same-sex marriage ruling up for retention Tuesday. However, the three justices who replaced those removed by voters in 2010 were on the ballot as well; they were also retained.
Much of the debate took place during dueling bus tours across Iowa. In a Council Bluffs stop by the anti-Wiggins camp, Patriot Voices Iowa State Chairwoman Kim Lehman warned that the 2009 ruling was an encroachment by the judiciary. “They are coming, and they want to take your liberty,” she said.
Pro-Wiggins groups held counter rallies.
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