During a speech on Thursday, the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court defended the court’s 2009 ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Iowa. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus is up for a retention vote in this fall’s election and critics of the ruling want her voted off the court.

Ternus spoke to crowd in Dubuque. “Before you vote in the retention elections this year, reflect on the rule of law and the need for impartial justice for all, free of politics and free of special interests,” Ternus said. Ternus and two other Iowa Supreme Court justices have their names on the ballot.

“You will be voting for the kind of the court system you want in the future,” Ternus said. “I hope that you will all stand for a fair and impartial judiciary, free of intimidation, interference and political influence.” A state law had stipulated that the only legal marriages in Iowa were between a man and a woman.

Ternus told the Dubuque crowd her court had no choice but to declare that law unconstitutional, based on equal protection grounds. A well-funded campaign to vote Ternus and two other justices off the court accuses the justices of overstepping their authority.

The American Family Association has spent a quarter of a million dollars on advertisements urging Iowans to vote “no” on the justices.