This past Tuesday, Utah Judge Scott Johansen ordered a nine-month-old girl removed from her foster parents’ home because they are a same-sex couple. Three days later, after a great deal of controversy, he reversed his order – but perhaps not for good.
April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce are a legally-married couple who are fostering a baby girl with the intent to adopt her. The adoption plans were in place and even approved by the child’s birth mother when Johansen stepped in. He ordered that the infant be removed from the household within seven days and placed with an opposite-sex couple, claiming to have evidence that children fare better when raised by heterosexual parents.
Hoagland’s response to the judicial order was heartbreaking. She said that she and her partner had “been told to care for this child like a mother… And she’s just going to be taken away in seven days to another probably good loving home, but it’s not fair, and it’s not right, and it just hurts me really badly because I haven’t done anything wrong.” And indeed, neither she nor her partner has done anything to warrant the removal of their child.
As the story spread, support for the couple came from all directions, including two current presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley tweeted about the issue, calling wider attention to anti-LGBT adoption discrimination.
Initially, Hoagland and Peirce intended to appeal the decision, but greater state forces got involved. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) declared that removing the child was not in her best interests and announced their intent to petition the Utah Court of Appeals unless Johansen revoked the ruling. He did so later in the week, allowing the child to stay with her current foster parents, but the fight is not over yet. There will be a hearing on December 4 to further investigate what move would be in the child’s best interests.
All major medical and psychological institutions, including the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, maintain that children raised by same-sex couples are at no greater risk than children raised by opposite-sex parents. Like the majority (if not the entirety) of the LGBT community, I know the same from scientific evidence, anecdotal understanding, and common sense: sexual orientation of the parents is not a factor in the well-being of their children. Johansen has not yet revealed his supposed research claiming the reverse.
I wish the family the best in their upcoming hearing, that they will be able to keep their daughter, and that this controversy will push forward the conversation about anti-LGBT discrimination in the adoption sphere.