Voters were deciding Tuesday whether to keep Justice David Wiggins on the Iowa Supreme Court or throw him out of office for joining the landmark 2009 marriage equality decision. Social conservatives angered by that ruling were hoping to oust Wiggins. In an unprecedented campaign two years ago, they helped defeat three of his colleagues. Liberal groups and trial lawyers were trying to keep Wiggins on the bench. State Supreme Court justices must face voters the first year after they are appointed and then every eight years. Justices must receive a simple majority vote to stay in office. The vote on Wiggins’ retention is considered a barometer for the country’s changing views on marriage and a flashpoint in the debate over the role of courts in American life. Wiggins joined six colleagues in unanimously declaring a state law banning gay marriage violated the equal-protection clause of Iowa’s constitution, making Iowa the first Midwestern state to enact marriage equality. Thousands of gay couples have wed in the state. The backlash from conservatives, both in Iowa and nationwide, was fierce. Groups such as the National Organization for Marriage spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign against Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit in 2010, and about 55 percent of Iowa voters agreed to remove them from office.
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