GOP Seeks Revenge on Pro-Equality Iowa Supreme Court Justices

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com April 25 2013 10:57 AM ET

A group of Republican legislators in Iowa want to reduce the salaries of the seven state Supreme Court Justices who ruled unanimously in favor of marriage equality in 2009, according to the WCF Courier.

Representatives who introduced the amendment to a Senate budget bill — which would cut judicial salaries to $25,000 — say the justices overreached when they struck down the state's ban and ordered the legislature to implement marriage equality in Varnum v. Brien.

"It's our responsibility to maintain the balance of power," between the branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw told the Courier on Tuesday. Fellow Republican Rep. Dwayne Alons said the justices "trashed the separation of powers" when they ruled in favor of marriage equality without amending state law that banned same-sex marriage. 

The amendment appears in Senate File 442, which regulates the state judicial branch's budget. The amendment would seek to reduce the salaries of the four Supreme Court justices still on the bench who joined the unanimous decision by the full seven-member court in Varnum. The bill would reduce the justice's salaries to $25,000 — the same as a state legislator, according to the Courier. 

Three of the justices who issued that ruling subsequently lost their retainment elections, after antigay groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, and the American Family Association launched aggressive localized campaigns to remove pro-equality justices from the bench. 

Representatives who proposed the salary amendment say it isn't meant to be punitive, despite only impacting the judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality. The salary change would take effect for all justices once Iowa voters approve a constitutional ban on marriage equality, reports the Courier. 

"We're just holding them responsible for their decision," said Shaw. "For going beyond their bounds."

But the state Senate Judiciary Chairman called the amendment "ridiculous," noting that the court routinely interprets both state law and constitutional issues. The chairman, Sen. Rob Hogg, also told the Courier that a proposal to pay justices differently depending on their role in a single case was unlikely to withstand a constitutional challenge.