This Anti-Gay Ruling Outraged Hillary Clinton & You Won't Believe It Actually Happened In 2015
Despite June's landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex couples' marriage rights, issues regarding gay parenting continue to play out in court. A Wednesday ruling from a Utah judge highlighted the continued discrimination gay couples face. Judge Scott Johansen ordered that a lesbian couple give up their foster child, arguing that the one-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. The ruling drew condemnation from LGBT rights group HRC, and even leading democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted support for the couple.
After getting married, Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland applied to become foster parents. In Utah, law restricts foster parenting to married couples or single individuals over 21; unmarried couples are not licensed. Thanks to the Supreme Court, gay marriage is legal in Utah — marriage licenses were actually first issued as far back as December 2013, but the Supreme Court settled the matter in October 2014 when it refused to hear an appeal from the state. Peirce and Hoagland were approved by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services and welcomed a one-year-old into their home in August.
Wednesday's ruling stemmed from a routine hearing. The couple told Salt Lake City's KUTV that Judge Johansen cited research that children do better when raised by heterosexual couples. The baby girl will be removed from their home within the next seven days. "We are shattered," Hoagland told the TV station. The couple have been raising the baby for three months, alongside Peirce's biological children, aged 12 and 14.
The baby's biological mother supports the lesbian couple. Her attorney, Mandie Torgerson, said the biological mother is upset and will appeal the judge's ruling at a hearing set for early December. Hoagland told The Salt Lake Tribune that the biological mother has even asked the couple to adopt the baby.
Officials from Utah's DCFS are in a trickier spot. Caseworkers are legally obligated to comply with the judge's ruling, Brent Platt, director of DCFS said. Nonetheless, the agency will review the order — they still have not yet received it — and appeal it if they are able to do so. "If we feel like [Johansen's] decision is not best for the child, and we have a recourse to appeal or change it, we're going to do that," Platt told the Tribune. Meanwhile the agency is looking for another home for the infant.
Platt told KUTV that the state doesn't track the number of same-sex foster couples but said that the agency wants any loving, married couple that meets the requirements to foster to be involved. "For us, it's what's best for the child," he said. Deborah Lindner, spokesperson for the Utah Foster Care Foundation, a non-profit that helps train foster parents, guessed about 20 LGBT couples currently foster in Utah.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the country's largest LGBT rights groups, called the ruling, "outrageous, shocking, and unjust." Chad Griffin, HRC president, said in a statement that the ruling contradicts "overwhelming evidence" that children raised by same-sex couples are as healthy and well adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex couples. "it is sickening to think that a child would be taken from caring parents who planned to adopt," Griffin said.
Hillary Clinton's staff tweeted her support for the couple Wednesday night, linking to the KUTV story. The presidential candidate came out in favor of marriage equality in March of 2013, and has drawn some criticism for her slow evolution on the issue. She tweeted in support of LGBT activists in June, following the Supreme Court decision.
This is not the first legal battle in Utah over gay parenting since same-sex marriage was legalized in the state. In February another lesbian couple sued the state when Utah officials refused to list both mothers as parents on their baby's birth certificate. The state had said the non-biological mother would have to go through the adoption process. In July a federal judge sided with the lesbian couple, though, saying there was no difference in their situation from an opposite-sex couple that used a sperm donor.
In Wednesday's ruling, the couple said they think the judge imposed his religious beliefs on their family. If that is the case, all must be done to protect the child while the ruling is overturned.