Utah Judge’s Removal of Foster Child From Same-Sex Couple's Care Under Review

The judge ordered child welfare officials to remove the baby within seven days.

ByABC News
November 12, 2015, 5:38 PM

— -- Utah state child welfare officials are reviewing a juvenile court judge’s ruling to remove a baby from a foster home with a lesbian couple because of his apparent belief that the child is better off with heterosexual parents.

Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen issued an order Tuesday that the Division of Child and Family Services remove a 1-year-old child from the home of a legally married same-sex couple within the next seven days, Utah DCFS Director Brent Platt told ABC News today.

“I wasn’t in court that day but it’s my understanding that the judge alluded to some research he had that led him to believe that children being raised in a home with same-sex couples don’t fare as well as other children,” Platt said.

Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland have been fostering this baby girl for about three months, Platt said, and were in court for a routine hearing when the judge issued the order. Peirce and Hoagland have not responded to ABC News’ requests for comment on the judge’s order, which Platt says is unavailable in written form.

“It had nothing to do with concerns with the foster parents or placement,” Platt said. “There are no concerns as far as the DCFS knows.”

Peirce and Hoagland went through all of the necessary steps to foster a child, including training, background checks and home studies, Platt said, and are legally allowed to foster following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

“There are plenty of people who would be more than willing to take in a 1-year-old baby,” Platt said. “The fact that we placed her with this couple means it’s a good fit.”

An official for the Utah State Courts told ABC News that the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct prevents judges and court staff from talking about pending cases.

The judge's controversial ruling has caused a nationwide outcry.

Hillary Clinton's camp tweeted about the decision, saying "Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation -- thousands of families prove that."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also weighed in on the ruling, telling reporters during a KUED news conference today that he is "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," Herbert said.

The Human Rights Campaign -- a civil rights organization working to achieve LGBT equality -- also expressed shock and disappointment.

“Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "At a time when so many children in foster care need loving homes, it is sickening to think that a child would be taken from caring parents who planned to adopt."

DCFS attorneys are already involved and are gathering information, Platt said, and the division is hoping to receive the written court order today so they can weigh their options going forward and determine whether this ruling can be appealed or challenged.