Utah judge who ordered baby removed from same-sex couple's home retires

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The Utah juvenile court judge who made headlines when he ordered a baby removed from a married same-sex couple’s home has retired, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen retired from the bench Friday, the newspaper said, according to a judicial vacancy announcement. An article by ETV 10 News reports that Johansen has been battling cancer and recently received a bone marrow transplant.

Johansen surprised both the couple and the Utah Department of Children and Family Services when he ordered the nine-month-old girl removed. DCFS had no problem with the care provided by married couple Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland. The baby had been with them for three months and they hoped to adopt her. The biological mother supported the adoption, as did the baby’s guardian ad litem. Utah law permits any legally married couple to be licensed as foster parents.

But on Nov. 10, Johansen ordered the girl removed within seven days, saying research shows that children do better with opposite-sex parents. He declined to specify what research he was referring to.

The decision attracted widespread attention, including condemnation from Utah’s governor and an ethics complaint against Johansen from the Human Rights Campaign. The judge quickly amended his ruling to cancel the removal and instead scheduled a hearing to determine the best interests of the child. The following week, Johansen removed himself from the case and referred the case to the district’s presiding judge, Mary Manley, the Salt Lake Tribune reported at the time. Petitions for his impeachment have been circulated; one Change.org petition had gathered more than 2,600 signatures.

“I can’t say enough wonderful things about him,” Manley told ETV 10 News in an interview after the announcement of Johansen’s retirement. “This is a huge loss to the State of Utah Juvenile Bench as a whole and specifically to the seventh district.”

As for the baby, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Dec. 1 that the best-interests hearing was canceled. A hearing on terminating the biological mother’s rights—a step toward adoption—had been scheduled for Dec. 9. No more recent information was available.

Updated on Jan. 7 to add information and a quote from the ETV 10 News article.

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