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Iowa Supreme Court overturns $1.5 million verdict against former Gov. Branstad

The court ruled the former governor did not illegally discriminate or retaliate against a gay state official.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Editor's note: The above video is from September 2020

In what one Des Moines attorney calls "highly unusual," the Iowa Supreme Court reversed a jury's decision to award $1.5 million to a former state official who alleged former Gov. Terry Branstad discriminated against him.

On the final day of the court's term, the justices overturned the landmark decision in Godfrey vs. State of Iowa. The court found a lack of evidence to show Branstad, a former U.S. ambassador to China, discriminated against then-Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey because of his sexual orientation.

Godfrey was widely known as openly gay, but justices say there is no proof Branstad was aware of Godfrey’s sexual orientation before asking him to resign and slashing his salary when Godfrey refused.

Gary Dickey, who worked as general counsel for Gov. Tom Vilsack, called the court's decision to reverse an Iowa jury's decision "highly unusual."

The justices' decision ends a decade-long legal dispute that has cost the state of Iowa millions of dollars. This is the third time the highest court in Iowa has weighed in on the Godfrey case.

With the ruling, the state is off the hook paying more than $4.5 million in attorney fees and the jury settlement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report