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Iowa judges like Jeffrey Neary are fighting attempts at their removal by conservative activists who are upset over their gay-supportive rulings.
Seven years ago Neary allowed the "divorce" of a lesbian couple joined by a civil union in Vermont. Conservatives believed this decision opened the door for same-sex marriage in the state -- which arrived in 2009 -- and worked to oust him in his retention election; he narrowly kept his position. Most judges are seamlessly elected each term, but the advent of gay rights has complicated the issue, reports the Des Moines Register.
"I will tell you, honestly, that for two years after my retention election, I thought carefully about how I was going to rule on things," Neary, who stands for retention again this year, told the Register. "I don't want to say that I changed rulings, because I don't think I ever did. But you ask yourself: Who's going to care about this decision?"
Another Iowa judge, Robert Hanson, said the targeting of judges is dangerous not only because it might influence decisions but because it sets the precedent that judges should always rule with the majority's opinion.
"It flies in the face of the notion that we don't want every issue in this country to be decided by what the majority believes," Hanson said.