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Supporters of LGBT Rights Rally in Glasgow Against Family Court Judge

Lisa Autry

Members of the LGBT community and their supporters want a judge in south central Kentucky to resign over his opposition to gay adoptions. 

Judge Mitchell Nance, a family court judge for Barren and Metcalfe counties, has recused himself from presiding over adoptions by homosexual parents.  He said he believes allowing gay couples to adopt is not in a child’s best interest.  His announcement has drawn a range of opinions, some calling for him to step down from the bench.

In a rally outside the Barren County Courthouse, Chadwick Shockley of Glasgow said he knows Judge Nance personally and was surprised by his recusal.

"It was like a kick in the head for him to infer that I was not fit to be a parent," Shockley told WKU Public Radio.  "I've raised two sons and a daughter with my husband."

Shockley and his partner have been together 16 years and were married last June.  Shockley, who works for Barren County schools, has helped raise his husband’s biological children.  One of them is Ephraim Lopez, Jr. 

"He helped me get through high school and find a job," said Lopez.  "He’s a good father.”

The 22-year-old Lopez says his family is like any other.

"We have vacations, family pictures, picnics, just a regular family," he added.

Dr. Patti Minter is a professor and legal historian at Western Kentucky University.  She’s also with the group Bowling Green Fairness.  Minter was among the demonstrators at the Glasgow rally who called on Judge Nance to resign.

"We’re here today to say that equal justice under law means equal justice under law," chanted Minter.  "When the Supreme Court of the United States says that, it’s not for someone to take their beliefs and discriminate against people who are doing wonderful things to bring new families together, to bring children into loving homes.”

Kentucky state law allows gay couples to adopt, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that all states must permit same-sex marriage, but legal experts say judges have a duty to disqualify themselves from cases in which they are biased.

"Not only did he do nothing wrong according to the law, he’s done exactly what the law has said he has to do in these kinds of cases," explained Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with the Family Foundation of Kentucky.  "This is just one more instance, in our opinion, where you have groups that think that acting on your politically incorrect opinions should be illegal.  It just goes to show the intolerance of the people who are always talking so much about tolerance.”

Cothran says his conservative group thinks the law should favor homes with a father and a mother.

“We need to have policies that support and incentivize more children growing up in what is demonstrably a better home to grow up in," added Cothran.

Judge Nance declined an interview for this story, but told the Courier-Journal in a phone interview last month that he doesn’t know any gay adoptive parents and said he was unable to cite any research that shows they make less of a parent than heterosexuals.

Going forward, Barren Circuit Court Judge John Alexander has agreed to hear Mitchell’s cases involving gay adoptions.  The ACLU of Kentucky has said it’s exploring all options, but so far, no legal action has been filed.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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