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Kentucky Judge Found Guilty of Misconduct After Refusing to Hear Gay Adoption Cases

The door just hit W. Mitchell Nance on the way out.

The Kentucky judge announced his resignation from the bench in October after refusing to hear adoption cases involving “homosexual parties,” as he believes being raised by same-sex parents is harmful to children. An ethics investigation against Nance by the Judicial Conduct Commission has subsequently found Nance guilty of misconduct.

“Due to Respondent’s retirement, a public reprimand is warranted, and is the only public sanction available,” the Frankfort-based board ruled on Tuesday.

The panel’s verdict was unanimous: 5-0.

The Judicial Conduct Commission charged Nance in September “with multiple violations of judicial ethics rules, including those banning bias or prejudice based on sexual orientation,” theLouisville’s Courier-Journal reports.

The board claimed in its decision that the position of afamily court judge serving Barren and Metcalfe Counties in Central Kentucky required Nance to hear cases “fairly and impartially according to the law.” The committee ruled that his “refusal to hear and decide adoption cases involving homosexuals” violates those standards, as well as nondiscrimination codes judges agree to as a condition of their employment.

Those prohibit bias on the basis of “race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, among others,” according to the Courier-Journal.

The Judicial Conduct Commission noted that Nance, who was first appointed to Kentucky’s 43rd Judicial Circuit 14 years ago, skipped a Dec. 15 hearing to defend his position. His attorneys previously argued that the situation presence a “unique crisis of conscience” for the judge, due to his “sincerely held religious belief that the divinely created order of nature is that each human being has a male parent and a female parent.”

Nance’s legal team has declined to comment on this week’s verdict.

The judge’s case is similar to religious hardliners like Roy Moore and Kim Davis, both of whom faced disciplinary action for their opposition to same-sex marriage.

Davis, also from Kentucky, spent five days in jail after refusing to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples in 2015. Moore, who was recently defeated in the Alabama Senate race, was removed from the bench after attempting to prevent gay marriages in his state following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges.

Like Nance, contravening the law cost Moore his job. The state found him guilty on several counts of judicial misconduct.

Davis, however, remains a clerk in Rowan County.


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.