A Kentucky Family Court judge who refuses to hear adoption cases involving gays and lesbians will resign amid an ethics and misconduct inquiry.
Judge W. Mitchell Nance submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday, saying he will retire on Dec. 16, according to documents made public Thursday by the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission.
In April, Nance drew national attention when he said he would no longer hear adoption cases involving “homosexual parties” because he believes allowing a gay person to adopt could never be in the child’s best interest.
The Barren and Metcalf county judge further said he would recuse himself from such cases because ethics rules require judges to do so when they have a personal bias or prejudice.
Last month the commission, which investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and wrongdoing, notified Nance that it was charging him with multiple violations of judicial ethics rules, including those banning bias or prejudice based on sexual orientation.
The commission told Nance it was initiating formal proceedings against him, which could have led to private or public sanctions up to and including removal from office.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, together with the Fairness Campaign, the ACLU of Kentucky and University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson filed a complaint with the commission in May asking for Nance’s removal from the bench.
The groups argued his actions were eroding public confidence in the courts and showed he was failing to perform judicial duties impartially and diligently.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said Thursday that he hopes the resignation sends a message to any other judge with a similar conflict between conscience and duty.
“Judge Nance must have seen the writing on the wall,” Hartman said in a statement. “He had proven he could not deliver the basic impartiality required by his office when it came to LGBTQ people and their families.”