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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A Kentucky family court judge who refused to hear adoption cases involving gay people has resigned instead of possibly being removed from the bench for misconduct.

W. Mitchell Nance, who sits in Barren and Metcalfe counties, had said earlier this year he would not hear adoption cases involving “homosexual parties,” saying it is in a child’s best interest to have a male and female parent.

The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission, which is the disciplinary arm of the judicial branch, formally charged Nance in September with several counts of judicial "misconduct,” for, among other violations, prejudice and not following the law. After a hearing, the commission could have suspended, removed or sanctioned the judge, if members found him guilty.

Instead, Nance resigned on Wednesday, waiving the hearing and requesting the charges against him be dismissed. The commission may still choose to sanction Nance, but no decision has been made, according to records. His resignation will take effect on Dec. 16.

“Judge Nance must have seen the writing on the wall," said Chris Hartman, Director of the Fairness Campaign, 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. His only possible pathway forward was resignation or removal from office. I hope this sends a message to judges across the country that if their conscience conflicts with their duty, they must leave the bench."

Nance argued he recused himself from cases involving parties in same-sex relationships because his “religious beliefs and convictions” required him to do so, according to documents his attorneys filed with the commission.

“His recusal would have facilitated the impartiality of the judicial system and ensured that all families had a fair opportunity for adoption,” Nance’s attorneys wrote.

The judge did acknowledge two mistakes, including sending out a general order to attorneys, saying they would need to request a special judge if they had an adoption case involving gay people.

And Nance acknowledged he could not just issue a blanket recusal for all such cases, that it must be done on a “case-by-case basis.”

His resignation letter thanked the people of Barren and Metcalfe counties for electing him. 

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