US & Canada

Utah judge orders child removed from care of lesbian couple

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce Image copyright CBS
Image caption The couple's foster child could be removed within one week of the ruling

A judge in the US state of Utah has ordered that a foster child be removed from the care of a lesbian couple and placed with a heterosexual family.

The Utah Division of Child and Family Services is searching for ways to challenge Tuesday's decision.

Without a challenge, the child will be removed from April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce's care within a week.

The decision, made by Judge Scott Johansen in the town of Price, has been criticised by gay rights groups.

In an interview with a local television news station, the couple said that the judge referred to research that children are better off when they are raised by heterosexual parents.

"We are shattered," Ms Hoagland told the station. "It hurts me really badly because I haven't done anything wrong."

The two are part of a group of same-sex married couples whom the state of Utah has allowed to become foster parents in the wake of last summer's US Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal across the US.

While they do not keep count, officials in Utah estimate that there are at least a dozen foster parents in the state who are married same-sex couples.

Image copyright CBS
Image caption Judge Scott Johansen's decision has been widely criticised

The decision to remove the child that the lesbian couple had been raising for three months has drawn heavy criticism from gay rights groups.

"Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust," said president of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin. "All major studies on the matter show that parents' sexual orientation is not related to a child's mental health and social development."

This is not the first time that Judge Johansen's decision have come under scrutiny.

In 1997, he was reprimanded for slapping a 16-year-old in the face at a courthouse in Price.

And in 2012, he drew attention for ordering a 13-year-old girl's hair cut in exchange for a lighter sentence. The girl was being prosecuted for cutting the hair of another, younger girl.

That same year, he was criticised for sending a teenage boy on probation to jail after he received a poor school report. The boy was on probation for shoplifting a pack of gum.

The foster agency has said that it is unaware of any issues with Ms Hoagland and Ms Peirce's performance as foster parents.

The agency's attorneys are now reviewing the decision to see what challenges might be mounted.

"We just want sharing, loving families for these kids," Sumner said. "We don't really care what that looks like."

The agency is tasked with keeping children in one foster home for as long as possible, on the condition that the parents - who are all screened before becoming foster parents - are providing adequate care.


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