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Kentucky Judge Facing Ethics Charges for Recusing Self From Same-Sex Adoption Cases Resigns

GLASGOW, Ky. — A Kentucky judge who announced earlier this year that he would recuse himself from hearing any same-sex adoption cases has resigned after the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission decided to charge him with ethics violations over his recusal.

Judge W. Mitchell Nance submitted a letter Thursday to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin advising that he would resign effective Dec. 16. His attorneys therefore state that the charges leveled against him are subsequently moot.

“[S]ame-sex adoptions present a unique crisis of conscience for Judge Nance,” they wrote, and conflict with “his conscientious religious objection to a child’s adoption by a same-sex couple,” according to a response to the charges obtained by the Glasgow Daily Times.

According to reports, the ACLU of Kentucky, Lambda Legal, the Kentucky Fairness Campaign and University of Louisville professor Sam Marcosson submitted the complaint to the commission after Nance outlined in April that as a “a matter of conscience” he believed he needed to recuse himself from any further same-sex adoption cases.

He outlined that as a Christian, “under no circumstance” does he believe that a child’s best interests would be served in family without both a mother and a father.

Nance also asked that attorneys notify him in advance if their case involved such a topic so he could recuse himself.

He told reporters that he has had two same-sex adoption cases come before his court over the past 14 years: For the first, he recused himself, and for the second, he ruled in favor of the parents. After the second situation, he decided to permanently recuse himself from such matters.

43rd Circuit Judge, John Alexander, agreed to hear any such cases instead of Nance.

However, homosexual advocacy groups soon filed a complaint against Nance, asserting that his request to be recused violated the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct by “eroding public confidence in the judiciary and failing to perform judicial duties impartially and diligently.”

“Judge Nance’s public announcement demonstrates bias and makes clear that he is unable to abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct in any case that may arise where litigants are, or perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bisexual,” the complaint read. “Judge Nance’s refusal to perform his judicial duties in adoption cases featuring lesbian, gay and bisexual litigants is ‘good cause’ for his removal, and no less severe sanction would suffice.”

The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission subsequently decided to charge Nance with a number of ethics violations, including “manifesting by words or conduct a bias or prejudice” against homosexuals.

Nance’s attorneys sought to have the charges dismissed after he resigned, also noting that Nance sincerely believed he was doing what was right, as his recusal “would have facilitated the impartiality of the judicial system and ensured that all families had a fair opportunity for adoption.”

However, the Commission decided to move forward anyway and has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 15, the day before Nance’s resignation date.

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