Kentucky Judge Would Rather Retire Than Hear Cases Involving Gay People

· Updated on May 28, 2018

A family court judge who requested to be recused from cases involving LGBTQ parents turned in a letter of resignation on Wednesday.

Mitchell Nance, a judge in Barren and Metcalfe County, issued an order in April which required that attorneys representing “homosexual parties” in custody cases alert him of their clients sexual orientation he can have himself removed from the proceedings. In his statement, Nance alleged that a child’s best interests could never “be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual.”

The 43rd Circuit judge announced that he would be stepping down in a letter to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. His removal from the bench will take effect on Dec. 16.

Nance’s resignation follows a complaint filed to the Judicial Conduct Commission by the ACLU of Kentucky and the Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group based in Louisville, Ky. Their charge alleges that he violated the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. These regulations require justices to remain unbiased in their legal rulings and apply the law ethically.

The judge’s attorneys have claimed Nance was attempting to comply with the law by stating his biases up front.

“His recusal would have facilitated the impartiality of the judicial system and ensured that all families had a fair opportunity for adoption,” claimed his legal counsel in a response to the April complaint.

Nance’s lawyers further argued that being forced to rule on same-sex adoptions or any other cases regarding LGBTQ parents would present for him a “unique crisis of conscience.” The statement adds that Nance harbors a “sincerely held religious belief” that “the divinely created order of nature is that each human being has a male parent and a female parent.”

LGBTQ advocates celebrated Nance’s resignation.

“Judges, more than anyone else, have a responsibility to follow the law,” Sam Marcosson, a University of Louisville law professor who signed onto the complaint, told the Glasgow Daily Times. “By making it clear that he could not, or would not do that, Judge Nance demonstrated that he simply had no place on the bench.”

“Judge Nance must have seen the writing on the wall,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said in a press release. “He had proven he could not deliver the basic impartiality required by his office when it came to LGBTQ people and their families.”

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