Judge’s resignation won’t curtail ethics charge
A Kentucky circuit court judge resigned last week rather than facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples or face the legal ramifications for refusing to do so. Gay rights advocate Chris Hartman hailed the resignation as a warning for all judges to “do their job or get off the bench,” highlighting the continued conflict between religious conscience and law in a post-Obergefell world.
Family court Judge W. Mitchell Nance came under fire in April from gay and civil rights advocates when he wrote an order asking attorneys to notify him of any adoption case involving a same-sex couple. Citing religious convictions and a belief that placing children in same-sex households is not in a child’s best interest, Nance asked for the advance notice so he could recuse himself from such cases.
In May, Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton questioned whether state law and judicial code supported Nance’s position. In light of his resignation, Nance asked the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission to dismiss charges that he violated judicial canons. But the commission will press ahead with its ethics investigation against him, holding a Dec. 15 hearing one day before Nance’s resignation takes effect. —B.P.
If you can’t do it, coach it
As campuses affiliated with the University of California system continue to face allegations of stymieing conservative student speech, system President Janet Napolitano announced the launch of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the system’s Washington, D.C., campus. The center will promote the restoration of “trust in the value and importance of free speech among college students” who increasingly demonstrate an ambivalence to America’s first freedoms.
The Free Speech Movement on college campuses began at the University of California, Berkeley, as students protested the Vietnam War. But just a few generations later, students on the same campus earlier this year violently protested to end a speech by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and threatened similar action if conservative pundit Ann Coulter delivered a planned speech.
At UCLA, the Bruin Republicans accuse administrators of imposing an inconsistently applied and cost-prohibitive security fee to provide protection against potential violence during a Nov. 13 event featuring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro.
In a letter to chancellor Gene Block, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom demanded administrators withdraw the fees request and rewrite school security policies. —B.P.
Barring free expression
The American Bar Association (ABA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and a same-sex couple suing Christian baker Jack Phillips. The state fined Phillips after he declined to create a wedding cake for the couple due to his Christian convictions about marriage.
Echoing language used by the pro-LGBT American Civil Liberties Union, the ABA brief said allowing business owners to act on their religious convictions would make gays and lesbians “second-class citizens” and would prompt wholesale religiously based discrimination against LGBT persons. The brief continues the trope that religious opposition to same-sex marriage is the same as racist opposition to interracial marriage.
“Many segregationists sincerely believed that white supremacy was religiously ordained,” Debra Cassens Weiss wrote Oct. 30 in the ABA Journal.
African-American Christians have persistently rejected the comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage. Anti-miscegenation laws were established to “preserve racial integrity,” the National Black Religious Broadcasters and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said in their amicus brief supporting Phillips. “The same religious beliefs that motivate many people of good faith to adhere the traditional definition of marriage helped serve to bring down anti-miscegenation laws,” the brief noted. —B.P.