Des Moines, IAThree Iowa Supreme Court Justices who were ousted in the 2010 judicial retention vote will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in May. This is the highest and most prestigious award that can be bestowed upon public servants and was created to celebrate political courage.
Justices Marsha Ternus, Michael Streit and David Baker will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The groups One Iowa, Lambda Legal, and Justice Not Politics celebrated the news.
The 24th Annual May Dinner celebrates the life and legacy of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and the 50th Anniversary of their White House years. Hosted by Caroline Kennedy and Board Chair Kenneth R. Feinberg, and co-chaired by Gerard F. Doherty and Peter & Carolyn Lynch, the dinner is held on the eve of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award ceremony. This black-tie gala supports the Kennedy Library's dynamic educational programs and includes a cocktail reception, dinner, and a special performance.
The Profile in Courage Award is administered by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, which is based in Boston. A distinguished bipartisan committee named by the Foundation reviews all nominations, and selects the recipient or recipients of the award.
On April 3, 2009, the Iowa State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage was unconstitutional. In August 2010, the state's most prominent anti-equality leader, Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats, launched an attack on the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were up for retention on the November 2010 ballot. Through a campaign fueled by misinformation and bankrolled by out-of-state anti-gay groups and leaders, most notably the National Organization for Marriage ( NOM ) and the American Family Association ( AFA ) , the three justices were ousted.
Justice Not Politics Board Chair Connie Ryan Terrell issued the following statement:
"Justice Not Politics extends congratulations to Justices Ternus, Baker, and Streit for receiving this high honor. Iowa is consistently recognized for its quality courts, and the three esteemed justices played no small part through their many contributions on the bench. We also commend them for the continued role they play in advancing Iowa's fair and impartial courts."
One Iowa Interim Executive Director Calla Rongerude issued the following statement:
"One Iowa congratulates Justice Ternus, Justice Streit, and Justice Baker for their courage and their commitment to upholding the Constitution. Because of their dedication to treating all Iowans as equal under the law, they have transformed the lives of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples and have made Iowa a more inclusive and fair place for all families. This is a very well deserved honor."
Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor issued the following statement:
"Chief Justice Ternus, Justice Streit, and Justice Baker took an oath to defend the Iowa Constitution and earned their place in history when they lived up to their oath with integrity and did the right thing before much of the rest of the country was ready," said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal and architect of the Varnum lawsuit. "We congratulate them on this much deserved high honor."
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Justice Not Politics is a broad based, nonpartisan coalition of organizations and Iowans across the political spectrum ---- progressive to conservative; Republicans, Independents and Democrats ---- all who are committed to protecting Iowa's courts and our system of merit selection and retention. www.justicenotpolitics.org
One Iowa is the state's largest LGBT organization working for full equality for LGBT individuals living in Iowa through grassroots efforts and education. www.oneiowa.org
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org
See award event details here: www.jfklibrary.org/About-Us/Join-and-Support/May-Dinner-2012.aspx .
Added from a March 12 news release:
Also being honored with a 2012 Profile in Courage Award is Robert Ford, U.S. Ambassador to Syria, whose bold and courageous diplomacy has provided crucial support to Syrians struggling under the brutal regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The prestigious award for political courage, announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, will be presented by Caroline Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 7.
"This year's Profile in Courage Award honorees have shown uncommon valor as public servants," said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. "When Justices Baker, Streit, and Ternus joined a unanimous decision to overturn a law denying same-sex couples the privileges of marriage, they sacrificed their own futures on the Court to honor Iowa's constitution and the rights of all its citizens. In Syria, as a member of the United States Foreign Service, Ambassador Ford has boldly carved a new path of diplomacy, risking his own safety in the face of political turmoil and violence to show support for the Syrian people."
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book,Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award™ in 1989 to honor President Kennedy's commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy's May 29th birthday. The Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.
David Baker, Michael Streit and Marsha Ternus, Former Iowa Supreme Court Justices
In 2009, Iowa Supreme Court Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit joined a unanimous opinion which struck down Iowa's ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was the first unanimous high court opinion on marriage for same-sex couples, and it made Iowa the third state to legalize same-sex marriage. The justices were aware that their opinion might not enjoy support from a majority of the public, but the Court stressed in its opinion that its responsibility was "to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time." Although the Court's decision was unanimous, it provoked a political backlash. In November 2010, voters removed Ternus, Baker and Streit from office following an unprecedented campaign financed in part by national interest groups opposed to same-sex marriage. The justices' ouster marked the first time since Iowa adopted its current judicial system that any sitting Supreme Court judge had lost an uncontested retention election. Ternus, Baker and Streit were the only three Supreme Court justices subject to a retention vote that year. They will be honored for the courage they and their colleagues demonstrated in upholding and defending the constitutional role of an independent judiciary, which has been vital to American democracy and historically responsible for the greatest advances in civil rights for all Americans.
Robert Ford, United States Ambassador to Syria
As U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford has taken extraordinary personal risks to bear witness to the violence and repression perpetrated by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and to advocate for the human rights of the Syrian people. Ford has used social media to establish channels of communication directly with the Syrian people, providing moral support and encouraging them to embrace non-violent protest in the face of government-backed brutality. A former Peace Corps volunteer and then career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Ford has risked his own safety to show solidarity with ordinary Syrians and to defend the rights of protesters opposing Assad's regime. He has continued to engage directly with opposition leaders, traveling around Syria despite repeated threats on his life. Ford will be honored for the courageous example he has set and the light he has shone on the power of creative and robust diplomacy to serve as a vital tool for advancing human rights.
This year's recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's prestigious award for political courage were selected by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Albert R. Hunt, executive Washington editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 13-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards ( D-Maryland ) ; Kenneth R. Feinberg, Chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Lindsey O. Graham ( R-South Carolina ) ; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., former U.S. Senator ( D-Massachusetts ) and Chairman Emeritus of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Martha Minow, Dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe ( R-Maine ) . Tom McNaught, executive director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee.