It’s not hard in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision this year to forget all about the drama and significance of a pioneering ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009 in Varnum v. Brien. But a new book about the case offers an engaging and timely history lesson, according to a review in The Des Moines Register.
In Varnum, the Iowa high court became the first in the nation to decide unanimously in support of marriage equality, when it ruled that a state ban on marriages for same-sex couples violated the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause. But the story didn’t end there. Iowa had retention (up-or-down) elections for three of the justices the next year. After an influx of special interest spending, all three were unseated in an historic election.
While the justices had “prioritized the Constitution over their careers,” they did not know in advance that “they would become lightning rods in a national backlash against equal rights,” reviewer Michael C. Simpson writes. Not only did they lose their jobs, he adds, “Some of the justices received death threats; their children were bullied at school.” (more…)