Family Law

Judge amends order that foster child be removed from married lesbian couple

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Updated: In a Tuesday ruling that apparently took the state Division of Child and Family Services by surprise, a Utah judge said a baby must be removed from a licensed foster home because the married couple in the home are not heterosexual.

There has been no issue concerning the quality of care provided in the foster home, and DCFS director Brent Platt said state law allows legally married couples to be foster parents, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The foster parents, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, are legally married and had hoped to adopt the girl, who was initially reported to be a 1-year old but is now said to be 9 months. She has been with them for three months.

On Friday, however, 7th District Court Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen backpedaled, amending his original ruling to eliminate the removal order and scheduling a Dec. 4 hearing to determine the best interests of the child.

His amended order says: “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.”

Hoagland and Peirce told KUTV they planned to get an attorney and appeal the ruling.

A lawyer for the girl’s biological mother says she also wants the foster placement to continue and plans to object at a subsequent hearing in a parental-rights-termination case, the station reports.

Hoagland and Peirce had planned to adopt the girl, and the biological mother supports that adoption, the Washington Post (reg. req.) reports.

Explaining his Tuesday ruling in the Carbon County case, Johansen said he had seen unspecified research that shows children do better in homes where married couples are heterosexual. He denied requests in court from both DCFS and the child’s guardian ad litem to disclose what research he was relying on, according to the Tribune.

DCFS had seven days to remove the toddler and place her in a different home, under Johansen’s original order. The DCFS director told the Tribune that departmental lawyers would be examining the order to see if there were grounds for an appeal.

Platt said Wednesday that the office hasn’t yet seen any written order and is pondering its options. “On the one hand, I’m not going to expect my caseworkers to violate a court order,” he told KUTV, “but on the other hand, I’m not going to expect my caseworkers to violate the law.”

As the ruling made headlines throughout the country, Johansen’s office said he couldn’t comment on a pending case, the Post reports.

“We have a lot of support,” Peirce told the Tribune. “DCFS wants us to have the child, the guardian ad litem wants us to have the child, the mother wants us to have the child, so the only thing standing in the way is the judge.”

Related coverage:

Associated Press: “Utah Governor ‘Puzzled’ by Order to Take Baby From Lesbians”

Updated at 5:25 p.m. to link to Associated Press article and include additional information from KUTV, revised Salt Lake Tribune story and Washington Post.

Last updated on Nov. 13 to include information about Johansen’s amended ruling.

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