WE tend to think of people who play pivotal roles in the advancement of social justice — and who pay steep prices for it — as passionate advocates with intense connections to their cause. We imagine them as crusaders.
Marsha Ternus wasn’t. She just tried to be fair.
The first woman ever to preside over the Iowa Supreme Court, she was asked three years ago to rule on a challenge to an Iowa statute banning same-sex marriage. She looked at the case and at the law and deemed the ban a violation of equal-protection language in the state’s Constitution, which said that no privileges should be reserved for a limited class of citizens. Her six fellow justices agreed. Their unanimous decision is why Iowa is among the minority of states in which two men or two women can marry.
It’s also why Ternus lost her job. . .
As for the decision itself, they learned in the first hours of discussion that none of them saw any way to square the marriage ban with equal-protection language. “Everyone’s jaws dropped — that we had a unanimous decision,” she recalled.