Family judge sacked for refusing to approve adoptions by gay couples
A judge who violated ethics rules by insisting he did not want to oversee same-sex adoptions has now been sacked for misconduct.
Judge W Mitchell Nance, who presides over family court in Kentucky’s 43rd Judicial District, caused a storm of controversy earlier this year after he banned cases involving gay families from his courtroom.
Judge Nance’s order registered a “conscientious objection to the concept of adoption of a child by a practising homosexual”, seeking to recuse himself from such cases on the grounds of “matters of conscience”.
The judge said he could not hear the cases because he believes there is no circumstance in which “the best interest of the child [would] be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual”.
He had agreed previously to “voluntarily” resign from the bench but has since been found guilty of misconduct by the ethics committee.
A probe into his conduct by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission earlier this week established that he had violated ethics rules.
The judge was handed a reprimand, having already confirmed that he will ‘voluntarily’ resign from the bench over the row.
But since he was found guilty by the committee, he was removed before his resignation came into place.
The state judicial commission had pursued ethics charges against Nance, accusing him of violating the judicial code of conduct.
This bars judges from overtly “showing bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status”.
He was also accused of failing to act in a way that “promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary”.
Responding to the charges previously, Nance’s lawyers confirmed that he would be resigning rather than face punishment.
The complaint against the judge was pursued by the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky LGBT group. It was joined by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kentucky and University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson.
Speaking to the Herald Leader, Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign said: “I think that we’ve got justice here
“Judge Nance has proven he cannot be entrusted with decisions that affect his diverse constituency and their families.
“I hope it sends a message that fairness and justice must be applied equally, and that judges whose conscience conflicts with their duties must resign the bench if they cannot deliver that basic fairness and justice.”
The judge had insisted previously that he had not discriminated against gay couples because the order was “preemptive”.
The judge explained he wanted to make clear in advance that he would not take such cases, adding: “It’s preemptive in nature… I wanted to preempt there from being any uncertainty if the situation arose.”
Judge Nance was backed by anti-LGBT groups.
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The anti-LGBT Family Foundation of Kentucky said: “If we are going to let liberal judges write their personal biases and prejudices into law, as we have done on issues of marriage and sexuality, then, in the interest of fairness, we are going to have to allow judges with different views to at least recuse themselves from such cases.
“When adoption agencies abandon the idea that it is in the best interest of a child to grow up with both a mother and a father, people can’t expect judges who do believe that to be forced to bow the knee.”
The group insisted the judge was correct to “recuse himself if he believes his views might bias a cas.
It added: “We can’t imagine how the groups now trying to unseat him claim to be in favor of tolerance and diversity while at the same time trying to hound from office public officials who don’t agree with their politically correct ideology.”
“If the Judicial Ethics Commission rules against Nance, it will be the second time in recent months which it has ruled against a judge for doing what the law requires judges to do.”