Given marriage equality is now the law of the land, it may have seemed that same-sex couples are now fully protected from the myths that their families are inferior. This week, however, a judge in Utah cited anti-gay research to justify removing a child from her same-sex foster parents’ care.
According to KUTV, Judge Scott Johansen ruled that April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce were unfit parents because they are a same-sex couple. He ordered the baby they’ve been raising for three months be removed from their home in the next week to be placed with heterosexual foster parents.
Hoagland and Peirce are married and were approved as foster parents earlier this year, passing all inspections, background checks, and interviews. They also are already raising Peirce’s two children, ages 12 and 14. The child’s birth mother is similarly upset by the situation and wishes to see her daughter stay with the couple.
Nontheless, in an as-yet-unreleased opinion, Johansen claimed there were “a myriad” of studies supporting his position that the child should live with a heterosexual couple. According to the couple, he would not identify his citations.
It seems likely Johansen was swayed by research from individuals like Mark Regnerus, Douglas Allen, and Donald Paul Sullins. These studies intentionally chose not account for how families formed or the negative impact of parents separating. Thus, the “children of same-sex parents” with negative outcomes were actually children whose different-sex parents split and then one of them later had some form of same-sex relationship. None of these studies compared children raised by married same-sex parents to children raised by married different-sex parents.
Most importantly, these stories are severe outliers. In fact, so many studies have confirmed that same-sex couples make good — if not better — parents that the research community had already achieved consensus on this point decades ago.
The Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is struggling to figure out how to respond to the decision. The agency recognizes the decision may not be lawful because of its discrimination against same-sex couples, but it is also required to follow court decisions. Utah currently has some 2,600 children in foster care.
Johansen has a long history of bizarre and offensive actions in rulings. In 1997, he was reprimanded for slapping a 16-year-old boy. In 2012, he forced a mother to cut off her 13-year-old’s ponytail in court, punishment for the teenager cutting the hair of a 3-year-old. A month later, he sent a teenage boy to juvenile detention, concluding that his poor report card was not the result of a possible learning disability, but a violation of his probation — he had been convicted of shoplifting a pack of gum.
DCFS is investigating options for how to act given the order required the child be removed within a week and an appeal hearing isn’t scheduled until early December.