Good News For the Lesbian Couple Who Lost a Foster Child in Utah

November 15th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Update: Friday 11/13/15 - 2:30 EST 

The Utah judge that drew fire this week after he ordered a foster child be taken from a couple because they were lesbian temporarily reversed his order on Friday, though he continued to question the ability of same-sex parents to raise children without issue, the New York Times reports.

Judge Scott Johansen removed certain lines from the order, that "it is not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples," and another instructing the couple's foster daughter be placed in the care of heterosexual parents. The new order, however, states that "The court cited a concern that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home," the Times notes. 

Earlier in the week, the juvenile court judge informed the lesbian couple that their foster child would be taken away and given to a heterosexual couple because it would be better for the child's well-being, according to testimony from the couple.

Judge Johansen's decision caused officials at Utah's Division of Child and Family Services to search for options challenging the order. Gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, called the decision outrageous and unjust, the Guardian reported.

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"We are shattered," April Hoagland, who with her wife Beckie Peirce are fighting back against what they see as a discriminatory, religion-influenced ruling, told local CBS affiliate KUTV Tuesday.

Hoagland and Peirce, who were legally married after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision earlier this summer, said that the judge referenced research indicating that children raised in same-sex households were worse off than those raised by heterosexual parents.

Foster parents ordered to give up child because they are lesbians

"Judge Johansen's own bias, own prejudice, clearly interferes with his judgement," Troy Williams, Executive Director of Equality Utah, told KUTV, calling the ruling "outrageous and unconstitutional."

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It's unclear what research Judge Johansen used to arrive at his decision, but plenty of data shows that same-sex parents raise children who fare no worse than others raised by a mother and a father. Last January, researchers from Columbia University's law school identified 73 scholarly studies published after 1985 finding that same-sex parents do not harm a child's well-being. Other research indicates that scientific consensus broadly supports that stance.

As Quartz reported in June, research exists pointing to the conclusion that children raised by same-sex couples are indeed worse off—more than twice as likely to develop emotional problems, according to a study from Catholic University—though critics point out that distinctions between stable same-sex households and ones where parents had separated were not clearly drawn. Stable homes, according to Utah's Division of Child and Family Services, are the bottom line.

According to KUTV, Johansen has a history of questionable decisions in his court, including making a mother cut her 13-year-old's hair as punishment, sending a boy to detention for having bad grades, and slapping a boy in the courtroom, an incident he later admitted was wrong.

On Wednesday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted out her support for the couple.


Though the judge temporarily reversed the order, Hoagland and Peirce's case will have a hearing in early December. 

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