Kentucky Judge Who Discriminated Against LGB Families Forced to Resign

Mitchell Nance

Kentucky Family Court Judge W. Mitchell Nance resigned from the bench on Wednesday, accused of refusing to hear cases involving LGBT people.

Advocacy groups filed a complaint against Nance in May for his refusal to hear adoption proceedings involving, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, according to a release from the Fairness Campaign. The complaint against Nance that was filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kentucky, Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign, and University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson came in response to an order that Nance, of the 43rd Judicial Circuit Court, filed in April that would have required “attorneys to notify the court if the adoption matter being filed involved same-sex couples or lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals, so that he could disqualify and recuse himself,” according to the release. 

Nance named his personal convictions as the reason for the order saying, “Under no circumstance would... the best interest of the child... be promoted by the adoption... by a practicing homosexual.” 

The complaint filed against Nance called for his removal from the bench because his request for recusal from adoptions involving LGB parents violated Kentucky’s Code of Judicial Conduct by “eroding public confidence in the judiciary and failing to perform judicial duties impartially and diligently.” The complaint argued:

"Judge Nance could not be fair and impartial and rule in the best interests of children when he declares an explicit bias against LGB parents. Judge Nance’s order eroded the public’s confidence in the court and demonstrated a prejudice based on sexual orientation that places a procedural burden on LGB parents that is not on other individuals. Because it was clear that he could not be fair and impartial when it comes to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, the advocacy groups urged in the complaint that Judge Nance be removed from office."

“Judge Nance must have seen the writing on the wall. He had proven he could not deliver the basic impartiality required by his office when it came to LGBTQ people and their families," Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said in response to Nance’s forced resignation. “His only possible pathway forward was resignation or removal from office.” 

Hartman added that he hoped the decision would reverberate throughout the courts, setting a precedent. “I hope this sends a message to judges across the country that if their conscience conflicts with their duty, they must leave the bench,” he said. 

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