“We are shattered.” This was April Hoagland’s response to Utah state judge Scott Johansen’s ruling yesterday. Acting in callous disregard for the child’s best interests, the judge ordered the removal of Hoagland’s foster baby from the home she shares with her spouse, Beckie Peirce, and placed with heterosexual parents. “It hurts me really bad because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Hoagland said.
Judge Johansen’s decision was not based on evidence that the child was harmed in the Hoagland-Peirce home. No such evidence exists. It was also not based on a recommendation from Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) because no such recommendation was made.
Instead, the decision seems to be based solely on the judge’s disapproval of the foster parents’ marriage. According to Salt Lake City’s CBS affiliate, KUTV.com, Johansen’s only justification for the Order was his vague reference to “a lot of research that indicated children who are raised in same-sex parent homes do not do as well as children who are raised by heterosexual parents.”
Of course, the judge refused to cite any specific studies in support of his decision. In fact, when asked to by Mandie Torgerson, the attorney for baby’s biological mother, Johansen merely referenced “a myriad” of studies that allegedly supported his order.
Interestingly, the state’s DCFS seems completely unpersuaded by this alleged plethora of credible research Johansen referenced. In fact, it sounds like the agency completely ignores these studies when vetting married couples who apply to become foster parents. Utah’s DCFS Director Brent Platt said the state has 2600 children in foster care and therefore needs as many married couples as possible to apply to become foster parents: “Any loving couple if they are legally married, and meet the requirements, we want them to be involved.”
Ms. Hoagland and Ms. Peirce clearly meet the DCFS standard. They are legally married, and they were recently approved as foster parents in Utah, after passing all of the requisite home inspections, background checks, and interviews conducted by DCFS. Most importantly, there is absolutely no evidence they are not a loving couple. They are already raising Ms. Peirce’s two teenage children, and they claim that the baby had thrived during the three months she was placed in their home.
Judge Johansen cited no evidence disputing this claim, nor has anybody working for DCFS. Moreover, KUTV.com reports that the baby’s biological mother supports the child’s placement in the Hoagland-Peirce home and plans to appeal Johansen’s Order. It was also reported that the state-appointed attorney for the child supports the placement, as well.
While Johansen chose to be vague about the research that informed his decision, it is clear that he ignored research done by two of the country’s leading authorities on children’s health. Curiously, this research seems more accessible than the “myriad” studies that no one else can find. For example, a quick google search would have led him to a policy statement for the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) that also endorses a myriad of studies, albeit ones that completely discredit the phony research vaguely cited by the judge: “In fact many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic support.” And, unlike Johansen, the AAP cites its sources.
And by ignoring the established research, it is clear that the judge willfully neglected the child’s best interests. “He’s never been in our home, never spent time with the child in our home or our other children so he doesn’t know anything about this,” Hoagland commented. It is inconceivable that Ms. Hoagland and Ms. Peirce will not prevail upon appeal. In the meantime, however, the one year-old child will be unnecessarily displaced from the parents who will in all likelihood adopt her, eventually. This means that the child will be deprived of valuable bonding time with her eventual forever parents during a critical stage of her development.
The only reason for these heartbreaking circumstances is one judge’s blatant homophobia, which has led him to ignore an overwhelming amount of established research that discredits the legal reason behind his decision. This case is not only heartbreaking; it is an outrage. The next time conservative politicians attack one of their favorite targets–activist judges–one hopes they will cite Judge Johansen as a shining example of a judge who recklessly legislates from the bench to impose his own social agenda on the public. But, really, what are the odds that will happen?