Civil Rights Groups Seek Removal of Ky Judge Who Won't Hear Gay Adoptions

May 16, 2017

Credit ACLU of Kentucky logo, Facebook

Civil rights groups are seeking the removal of a Kentucky judge who won't hear adoption cases involving gay adults. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups complained to Kentucky's judicial disciplinary commission about W. Mitchell Nance, a family court judge in Barren and Metcalfe counties.

Nance said he would recuse himself from adoption cases involving homosexuals because he believes it's never in a child's best interest to be adopted by a gay person.

Heather Gatnarek is a Legal Fellow with the Kentucky ACLU. She says recusal orders are not allowed for discriminatory beliefs.

"A recusal exists so that judges can remove themselves from cases when they have personal investment or interest in the case, whether they know a party personally or if they have a personal financial interest. A recusal does not exist for a situation like this," She said.

She said he can’t perform the essential duties of his office. "Judge Nance has essentially created a two-tiered system in the courtroom. He will deal with cases one way when there are heterosexual couples or opposite-sex couples before him and he handles a case another way when they are LGBT individuals or couples," she said.

The group says Nance has violated Kentucky’s Code of Judicial Conduct by eroding public confidence in the judiciary and failing to perform his duties impartially and diligently.

The ACLU was joined in the ethics complaint by Lambda Legal, the Fairness Campaign, and University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson.

Gay rights advocate Chris Hartman says Nance's "inability to be impartial is a blight on his office." Nance declined comment through a court official.

Martin Cothran is with the Family Foundation of Kentucky. He said Nance is following the law by recusing himself if he believes his views might bias a case.