Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady Dies of Heart Attack Aged 66: "Iowa Lost a Hero"

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady has died of a heart attack at the age of 66.

Cady, who is known for writing the opinion affirming the right to same-sex marriage in the state, leaves behind a wife, two children and four grandchildren.

Appointed to the Iowa Supreme County in 1998, Cady rose to become chief justice in 2011. According to the Des Moines Register, the court has been colloquially referred to as the Cady court since 2011, in recognition of his leadership and how often he would make deciding votes. Cady's term was due to expire on December 31, 2024.

On Friday evening, Cady's family released a statement seen by Des Moines Register: "Tonight, the state lost a great man, husband, father, grandfather, and jurist.

"Chief Justice Mark Cady passed away unexpectedly this evening from a heart attack. Arrangements are pending."

Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Cady studied law at Drake University, and graduated in 1978. For a year, he served as a judicial law clark for the Second Judicial District, before becoming an assistant Webster County attorney and working with a law firm.

In 1983, Cady was made district associate judge in Fort Dodge aged 29, making him one of the state's youngest judges. He was appointed district court judge around three years later in 1986, and to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 1994, being promoted to the elected chief judge of the court of appeals in 1997.

Cady wrote the opinion for Varnum v. Brien in 2009, when the Supreme Court unanimously decided limiting same-sex marriage violated the state's equal protection clause.

Following his death, Cady was hailed as a "hero" and a "really good man" in tributes.

Governor Kim Reynolds offered her prayers to his wife, family and colleagues. She said: "I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of Chief Justice Mark Cady. He devoted his entire professional career to serving the people of Iowa.

"He loved the law, the judiciary, and the state we call home. He leaves behind a legacy of service and dedication that we should never forget."

LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa tweeted: "We are saddened to hear of Chief Justice Cady's death. Earlier this year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of one of his most impactful decisions: Varnum v. Brien. His words touched the lives of countless LGBTQ people not just in Iowa, but nationwide.

"Cady's legacy of protecting the rights of Iowans lives on, and we in the LGBTQ community are particularly grateful for his service on the Iowa Supreme Court. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, tweeted: "I am an Iowan who is married to my husband. That is because of Chief Justice Mark Cady. The history of this state I am so proud to call home is filled those who stood up against prevailing attitudes to do the right thing, and Justice Cady was one of those brave Iowans."

Michael Gartner, the owner of the Iowa Cubs, who previously edited the Des Moines Register, told the newspaper he saw his neighbor and friend several times a week.

Gartner said: "Iowa lost a hero."

"Few people know what their legacy will be, but Mark did," Gartner said. "It was not just Varnum. He made spectacular decisions on juvenile justice. Few people changed as many lives or had as much of an impact on the state of Iowa as Mark Cady."

Writer Marc Hansen interviewed Cady for a book about marriage equality in Iowa. He told the Des Moines Register Cady was in good shape and played golf.

Co-author Tom Witosky told the newspaper: "Iowa lost a really good man.

"He was a thoughtful man who understood the law and worked to make it to apply equally to all."

Iowa's judicial system released a statement seen by The Gazette which described Cady as "a wonderful individual and exceptional judge, respected and beloved by his fellow jurists."

"His passing is a great loss to the court and the state he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Becky, and his family," the statement read.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, who has died aged 66. Iowa Judicial Branch