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This Judge Won't Hear Adoption Cases for Gay Parents

Judge W. Mitchell Nance said his decision was "a matter of conscience."
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
May 1, 2017, 3:48pm
Photo by Flickr user Caitlin Childs

A family court judge in Kentucky has recused himself from adoption cases involving same-sex couples, because he believes allowing a "practicing homosexual" to adopt would "under no circumstance" benefit children, the Washington Post reports.

Judge W. Mitchell Nance, who's served in family court since 2004, said he wouldn't preside over the cases "as a matter of conscience." He issued an order Thursday announcing his decision, drawing on legal ethics rules that prohibit judges from ruling on issues they feel biased toward. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Nance said he didn't know any gay adoptive parents or of any sound research showing children are better off in heterosexual households.

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While conservative groups like the Lexington-based Family Foundation have applauded Nance's decision, gay rights advocates have called on him to resign. Judicial ethics scholars, like Indiana University's Charles Geyh, say Nance may have disqualified himself from serving on the bench going forward. Geyh told the Journalthat Nance has effectively violated his oath to uphold the law, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"If he is unable to set his personal views aside and uphold the law—not just in an isolated case, but with respect to an entire class of litigant because he finds them odious—it leads me to wonder whether he is able to honor his oath," Geyh said.

According to the Glasgow Daily Times, any cases involving same-sex couples looking to adopt will now go to the judge who shares the court's two divisions with Nance, Judge John T. Alexander. Nance said prospective parents won't have to worry about a delay in the process.

"I don't have any plans to recuse myself from any," Alexander said, "so it should not affect the ability of any same sex couples to adopt in Barren or Metcalfe counties."

This isn't the first time Kentucky judges have garnered national attention for allegedly discriminating against gay couples. Just after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, Kim Davis nabbed headlines for refusing to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses. After a brief stint in jail for contempt of court, Davis returned to work, where she managed to avoid issuing marriage licenses to gay couples by delegating the responsibility to her deputies.

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