A Kentucky Family Court judge who earlier this year said he cannot hear adoption cases involving gay or lesbian people, arguing that he is looking after the best interests of children, has been found guilty of misconduct.
The Louisville Courier Journal reported on Tuesday that W. Mitchell Nance, who previously announced his intention to resign on Dec. 16 due to the ethics and misconduct inquiry launched against him, has now been issued a public reprimand by the Judicial Conduct Commission.
The reprimand, passed by a 4–1 vote and made available online, says that the Kentucky code of judicial conduct requires judges to "fairly and impartially decide cases according to the law."
"Judge Nance's refusal to hear and decide adoption cases involving homosexuals is violative of said Canons," it adds, listing out canons that prohibit prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national original, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
Nance explained back in April that "as a matter of conscience," he believes that "under no circumstance" would "the best interest of the child be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual."
Nance's attorneys have also said that according to his sincere religious belief, "the divinely created order of nature is that each human being has a male parent and a female parent," the Herald Leader added.
LGBT activists, such as Chris Hartman, director of the Kentucky-based advocacy group the Fairness Campaign, praised the reprimand.
"This should be crystal clear to judges all across Kentucky and the U.S. — if you can't uphold and respect the law, you have no place on the bench," Hartman said, according to The Associated Press.
"Excluding LGBT people and families is judicial misconduct, plain and simple."
Bryan Beauman, an attorney for Nance, said that the judge has retired, but has not provided a response to the reprimand. The judge also did not offer a defense during the judicial disciplinary committee hearing last week.
Children adoption cases have been a thorny issue in American politics, with religious agencies in various states asking to be allowed to operate by their beliefs and retain the right to refuse placing children into the homes of same-sex couples.
LGBT-supporting groups, such as the ACLU, have strongly protested, however, and in September filed a lawsuit against Michigan for allowing such religious exceptions.
The Michigan Catholic Conference said at the time that the such exemptions are necessary for its continued operations.
"Catholic agencies are staffed and administered by persons who love their job, are dedicated to helping families, and bring their faith with them into the workplace to serve others," it positioned.
"Faith-based agencies comprise a significant percentage of adoption and foster care placements in the state; their work has spanned decades and has placed thousands of vulnerable children in loving homes over many years," it added.