April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce are married with two children, and hope to adopt a third, a baby they have been fostering for three months.
But the Utah couple says their adoption hopes were dashed when a judge ruled to remove the baby from their home, saying that the child would be better raised by heterosexual parents.
Judge Scott Johansen ordered the Department of Child and Family Services to remove the foster child within seven days, allegedly citing studies that argue against same-sex households.
Hoagland and Peirce were approved to foster a child after passing interviews and background checks with the DCFS. Their foster child’s biological mother and state guardian both approve of Hoagland and Peirce as parents and want the child to remain in their care, KUTV reports.
Johansen’s claim that straight couples make better parents than gay couples is a popular argument in some conservative circles.
“The study that is constantly used on the right is by Paul Regnerus,” Emily Hecht-McGowan, interim co-executive director of the Family Equality Council, told The Daily Beast.
The 2012 report, titled “The New Family Structures Study,” claims to measure the social and mental well-being of children who grew up in same-sex households. But the study has been criticized as inaccurate or biased in the way it defined “same-sex families.” Respondents were asked if their parents remained married throughout childhoods. Only respondents whose parents had separated were asked if their parents had ever had a same-sex relationship. Unsurprisingly, same-sex families were linked with instability.
More studies have found that children of same-sex parents fare the same—and sometimes better—than children of heterosexual parents. But Utah, which attempted to bar some same-sex couples from adopting children in 2014, has no anti-discrimination law to prevent studies like Regnerus’s from being used to police same-sex adoptions.
“This kind of ruling and bias is something we’re very concerned about,” Hecht-McGowan said. “A judge’s job in family court is to do one thing: promote the best interests of the child. This judge clearly failed to do that. He imposed his own bias and his own personal, uninformed opinion that’s now detrimentally impacting the child in foster care — who was by all accounts thriving in a loving home with two parents.”
Judge Scott Johansen has made headlines with a number of questionable rulings over his 23 years in Utah’s juvenile courts. In 2012 he offered an eye-for-an-eye deal for a 13-year-old girl who had cut another child’s hair in a McDonald’s. Johansen said he would reduce the girl’s sentence if her entire ponytail was cut off in the courtroom.
In 2012, Johansen sentenced a teenager to jail, arguing that the child’s poor grades constituted a violation of an earlier shoplifting probation. In 1997, Johansen slapped a 16-year-old in the face during a meeting in the courthouse. He received a reprimand for the incident.
— Additional reporting by Jay Michaelson.