A juvenile court judge in Utah has ordered a foster child be removed from the custody of a lesbian couple because he felt that the girl will be better off in a heterosexual home. Judge Scott Johansen, who made the order had claimed that children in homosexual homes did not do as well as they do in heterosexual homes.
The couple, Beckie Peirce, 34 and April Hoagland, 38, who married in October last year were licensed by the Utah child services to foster a child and in August this year, they took custody of the nine-month old girl, joining Peirce's 12- and 14-year old biological children.
There were plans in place to adopt the little girl. The girl's biological mother had given approval for the adoption, the Washington Post reported. However, on Wednesday (11 November) Judge Johansen ordered the girl to be removed from the lesbian couple.
Describing the decision as heartbreaking, Hoagland told KUTV: "I was kind of caught off guard because I didn't think anything like that would happen anymore. ... It's not fair, and it's not right, and it hurts me really badly because I haven't done anything wrong."
Hoagland said that Johansen had claimed that "through his research he had found out that kids in homosexual homes don't do as well as they do in heterosexual homes." A copy of the court order was not immediately available but a court spokeswoman confirmed its contents, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The Utah Division of Child and Family Services has been ordered to find a new home for the child under Judge Johansen's order. Its director Brent Platt said that his office will review the order and determine if there are grounds for appeal.
"If we feel like [Johansen's] decision is not best for the child and we have a recourse to appeal or change it, we're going to do that," he said. In the meantime, the department is looking for an alternative home for the infant.
The newspaper noted that this is not the first time Judge Johansen has courted controversy. In 2012, he ordered a woman to cut off her 13-year old daughter's ponytail as punishment for cutting off a three-year-old's hair at a restaurant. The option was offered to the mother in exchange for shaving off 150 hours of community service for the teenager.
The toddler's mother, who was in court supported the judge's decision and even spoke up when she felt that the mother had not cut off enough. The judge agreed and asked her to cut off the teenager's hair "up to the rubber band."
Utah Governor Gary Herbert said he was "a little puzzled" by the decision. "[The judge] may not like the law, but he should follow the law. ... We don't want to have activism on the bench in any way, shape or form," the governor said. Judge Johansen's office when contacted Thursday (12 November) said he could not comment on court decisions.