Three judges from Iowa, who in a historic ruling voted to extend marriage to same-sex couples, and who were subsequently ousted through an orchestrated campaign by right-wing groups, have been honoured by Caroline Kennedy through the Profiles in Courage Award.

Ms Kennedy is the only surviving daughter of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. On what would have been her father’s 95th birthday, she honoured, the former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, and justices David Baker and Michael Streit, who brought forth a unanimous verdict that overturned a heterosexuals-only definition of marriage.

The award also honoured the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who risked his life to support opposition rebels against President Basher Assad’s military regime.

Anti-gay marriage groups including the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association conducted a $1 million campaign to remove the three judges. The judges chose not to raise money or campaign for themselves, in order to avoid mixing the judiciary with politics.

Ms Kennedy told the Associated Press: “The three judges are interesting and courageous on many levels… Like many of the people who get this award, they don’t consider that they are doing anything particularly courageous, they just feel they’re doing what’s right, they’re doing their job.”

Being a lawyer herself, she said that the three justices knew, when they wrote their ruling, that it would be “a pioneering decision” and would therefore face considerable “popular opposition.”

The judges will receive a sterling silver ship’s lantern, which according to the award’s website, is a symbol of hope. The lantern was designed by Ms Kennedy’s husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and made by the iconic Tiffany & Company.