Last week, a family-court judge in Kentucky announced that he will refuse to hear adoption cases involving LGBTQ parents.
Under Kentucky law, it is legal for LGBTQ couples to adopt children. But Judge W. Mitchell Nance believes that allowing gay parents to adopt would “under no circumstance” promote the best interest of the child, the standard used for adoption and other legal issues involving children. In other words, Judge Nance does not think LGBTQ parents should be allowed to adopt.
Judge Nance called his decision “a matter of conscience.” But when a government employee treats same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples, it is really a matter of discrimination. While there may be other judges willing to hear adoption cases involving gay parents in Judge Nance’s courthouse, that’s not the point.
Religion can never be an excuse for government officials to refuse to do their job because of who the person seeking services is. When Samantha and Amanda, our clients, went to the county courthouse in their small town in West Virginia to get their marriage license, the clerk berated and harassed them. Moreover, think about what happens if there isn’t another government official available to provide the service. That day, there was only one clerk on duty who could issue them a license. The couple will have to return to face that same clerk to do anything from pay their car taxes to register to vote, and they should not have to face discrimination from the clerk when they do so.
Getting married and welcoming children into your family are supposed to be some of the happiest moments of your life. These are life events worth celebrating, and should not be filled with fear and shame because government officials won’t treat you with respect.
Government officials have a duty to treat people equally and fairly. The way we would want to be treated ourselves.