A SETBACK FOR JUSTICE IN IOWA…. As engaged as far-right groups were in the midterm elections, there was a special focus, especially within the religious right, on the Iowa Supreme Court.

Their efforts, driven by anti-gay animus, paid dividends.

Voters in Iowa chose to remove three high court justices who helped make Iowa the first Midwestern state to permit same-sex marriage.

The vote marks the first time a member of the Iowa Supreme Court has been rejected by the voters under the current system that began in 1962.

Under the voting system in Iowa, each of the three justices up for retention — Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit — needed simply to get more “yes” votes than “no” votes in the election to be elected for another eight-year term. They faced no opponents. None of the judges raised money for the campaign.

While all seven justices on the court ruled with Ternus, Baker and Streit, those three were the only ones whose seats were up for retention. None of them received the 50 percent “yes” vote needed to remain on the bench.

Right-wing activists are celebrating, claiming to have performed “God’s will.”

As a rule, those who seek to punish others based on their interpretation of “God’s will” are playing with fire, but in this case, it’s nonsensical anyway. The fate of these judges, who had the audacity to read the law correctly, was Iowans’ will, and as we saw yesterday, a few too many of these Iowans have let their anti-gay attitudes cloud their judgment.

Rachel Slajda has more on the larger context of the showdown, and just how extensive the right’s effort was.

Last year, the Iowa Supreme Court’s seven justices voted unanimously to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, making them a target of groups like the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council, who declared the ruling a case of gross judicial activism and usurpation of power.

The groups spent more than $700,000 to convince voters to kick the judges out, funding a statewide “Judge Bus” tour, radio ads, TV ads, text messages and polling. Even Citizens United chipped in $18,000 at almost the last minute.

For what it’s worth, state lawmakers in Vermont voted to approve marriage equality in the state — the first legislature to do so without a court order — and the Democratic majority that made it happen was re-elected with ease yesterday.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.