Gay Rights Rally Utah

Utah Judge Rescinds Order Removing Child From Lesbian Foster Parents

On Tuesday, a Utah Judge made the startling and offensive decision to remove a 9-month-old foster child from the custody of her state-approved foster parents, solely based upon their sexual orientation. Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen ruled that April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce’s foster daughter be placed with a “duly married, heterosexual, foster-adoptive couple” within one week, Fox 13 Now reports. This despite the fact that April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce were married in August and have been background checked and vetted by the State of Utah to provide foster care within the state.

As the basis of his decision, the Utah Judge cited that “the Court” has a “belief” that it is not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex parents. Not surprisingly, advocates for the same-sex foster couple made themselves known immediately, and they included everyone involved in the custody case, including the Guardian ad Litem, DCFS, and the foster parents themselves. Both the State of Utah and the foster parents filed challenges immediately, demanding that the order be rescinded.

On Friday, that same Utah Judge did rescind his original order. He did a lot of crossing off on legal documents, including changing the word “belief” to “concern.” Judge Johansen also amended his order to allow the 9-month-old to remain in the custody of her same-sex foster parents, at least until December 4.

[Image Courtesy 7th District Juvenile Court/Public Record]
[Image Courtesy 7th District Juvenile Court/Public Record]
While the ruling is not a permanent solution, the changes the judge made to his former decree will allow April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce, as well as the Utah DCFS, time to prepare their case for a more permanent custody solution. Despite the ruling of a single judge who “has concerns” about children being raised by same-sex parents, the State of Utah has stood behind the foster parents in this case. Even Governor Gary Herbert stepped into the fray when the judge’s ruling began to generate national attention. The Utah Governor told the media that the judge should “follow the law.”

The State of Utah is certainly no stranger to making the LGBT community fight for their rights. Prior to this Utah Judge so publicly trying to deprive April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce of their legal opportunity to be foster parents due to their sexual orientation, the State of Utah, led by Governor Herbert, spent roughly $2 million to keep gay marriage illegal within its borders.

Herbert
[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]
AP is reporting that while April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce are ecstatic that this Utah Judge rescinded his controversial order so quickly, theirs is a cautious optimism. They will have to go back before him in less than a month for a review of the case, and nothing could have made his feelings more clear than his original order, an order that was rescinded due to public and political backlash rather than because Judge Johansen had a change of heart.

It’s still entirely possible that at the upcoming December review hearing, Judge Johansen will order the child removed from her current home and placed with another couple. A spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Ashley Sumner, spoke out about the agencies’ brief respite and lingering concerns about the case.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s not the final answer.”

When the story of these foster parents losing their child based only on their sexual orientation went viral, the pair got overwhelming support on social media. The Judge? Not so much. Human Rights Campaign is demanding that the now-infamous Utah Judge Johansen be formally investigated in relation to his Tuesday order. The human rights watchdog organization filed a formal complaint with the Utah Judicial Commission on November 13. They state that if this child was removed simply based on her foster parent’s sexual orientation, Judge Johansen violated the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct.

Fortunately for April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce, they have more than social media on their side. The law seems to have their back, too. Not to mention their excellent track record as foster parents, something Utah DCFS has been quick to defend. DCFS Director Brent Platt called the foster parents a “good family;” other DCFS workers had called the arrangement a “good fit.” Thus far, no one has indicated or implied that there is any “danger” to the 9-month-old-child in question, other than being raised by same-sex parents. Even that only seems to be a problem to Utah Judge Johansen.

[Image Courtesy of George Frey/Getty Images]

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