A Utah judge reversed an order that would require a married couple to give up the 1-year-old girl they've been fostering for the past three months because they are gay, according to the Associated Press.
April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, who were licensed as foster parents this year, have been taking care of the girl while the state moves to end the biological mother’s parental rights, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The girl’s biological mother has asked Peirce and Hoagland to adopt her daughter, the couple told the paper. The couple is also raising Peirce's 12-year-old and 14-year-old biological children.
“We are shattered,” April Hoagland told KUTV. “It hurts me really badly because I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Earlier this week, 7th District Court Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen ordered the girl removed from the home within seven days, citing research that children do better in heterosexual homes.
“Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust,” Human Rights Commission President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “It also flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that children being raised by same-sex parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as those with different-sex parents. At a time when so many children in foster care need loving homes, it is sickening to think that a child would be taken away from caring parents who planned to adopt.”
The Division of Child and Family Services wis looking for a new placement for the child, as to not violate the judge’s order, director Brent Platt told BuzzFeed News.
“Ultimately, I need to do what’s best for this kid,” Platt said, adding that he will be looking in to ways of keeping the girl legally with Hoagland and Peirce.
The division on Thursday afternoon announced it had filed a motion with the judge to keep his order from going into effect. If the judge does not take back his order, a spokesperson for the division said they would take the case to the court of appeals since they do not believe removal is in the best interest of the child.
“We had no reason to want to move the child,” Platt said. “We’re going to look at options to keep the child there – there’s no reason not to.”
Platt said DCFS does not keep track of how many children are currently placed in same-sex homes.
“If you’re licensed and you’re qualified, and you’re a good fit, we’re going to place a kid with you,” he said.
Johansen has made headlines for his courtroom behavior in the past, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. He was reprimanded in 1997 by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for slapping a 16-year-old boy in the courthouse. He also drew criticism in 2014 for ordering a mother to cut off her 13-year-old daughter's ponytail in court as punishment.
In his monthly news conference on KUED, Utah Governor Gary Herbert said he believes judge Johansen should "follow the law."
“I expect the court and the judge to follow the law. He may not like the law, but he should follow the law," Herbert said. "We don’t want to have activism on the bench in any way, shape or form. Laws, sometimes people don’t like, but the judge should not interject his own personal beliefs and feelings and supersede the law."
Calls to Hoagland and Peirce were not immediately returned.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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