(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Mark Cady, the soft-spoken chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court who wrote key decisions on gay marriage and abortion access that rankled social conservatives, has died at the age of 66.

Cady died unexpectedly Friday night from a heart attack, his family said in a statement posted on the court’s website.

“Tonight, the state lost a great man, husband, father, grandfather, and jurist,” the family wrote.

In an accompanying post, the court described him as an exceptional judge who was respected and beloved by his fellow jurists.

“His passing is a great loss to the court and the state he so loyally served,” the court wrote.

A court spokesman, Steve Davis, said Cady was in Des Moines when he died.

Cady had been a key swing vote on the court in recent years, as Republicans took control of the Legislature and governor’s office and passed new laws aimed at expanding gun rights, restricting abortion and barring gay marriage.

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