If you thought June’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex couples’ marriage rights was a slam dunk victory for LGBT rights, then I am sorry to say you are sorely mistaken.
A Wednesday ruling from a Utah judge has highlighted the discrimination gay couples continue to face in the United States.
Judge Scott Johansen ordered that a lesbian couple give up their one-year-old foster child, arguing that she would be better-off with heterosexual parents.
April Hoagland, 38, and her wife, 34-year-old Beckie Peirce of Carbon County, said the baby they’ve loved and raised for the last three months will be removed from their home in seven days and will be placed with heterosexual foster parents.
“We are shattered,” said April.
“We love her and she loves us, and we haven’t done anything wrong,” Beckie Peirce said Wednesday. “And the law, as I understand it, reads that any legally married couple can foster and adopt.”
The ruling has drawn condemnation from national LGBT rights groups, and even from leading democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who tweeted her support for the couple: “Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation—thousands of families prove that.”
Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation—thousands of families prove that. https://t.co/xQLh25RAYR
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 12, 2015
“It hurts me really badly because I haven’t done anything wrong,” said April.
The women say the baby has thrived in their home since she arrived three months ago. They want to adopt her and grow their family. They are already raising Beckie’s children who are 12 and 14.
They say the foster child’s state-appointed attorney supports them as does the biological mother of the baby – she wants her child to stay with her foster mothers.
Attorney Mandie Torgerson, who represents the baby’s biological mother, said Johansen did not cite the research he referenced in court saying only that there are “a myriad” of studies that support his order.
Torgerson said her client is upset. She will appeal the judge’s order at a hearing has been set for early December.
Brent Platt, Director of the state’s Division of Child and Family Services, said he had not seen the judge’s order – but his caseworkers must comply. At the same time, he wants to make sure his caseworkers don’t break the law by removing the child. He will have his division’s attorneys look at the judge’s order.
“For us, it’s what’s best for the child,” he said.
He said the state does not track the number of same -sex married couples who are fostering children but the state needs as many married couples as possible to help raise the state’s 2600 children now in foster care.
“Any loving couple if they are legally married, and meet the requirements, we want them to be involved,” he said.
Deborah Lindner, spokesperson for the Utah Foster Care Foundation, which trains foster parents for DCFS, said that agency doesn’t keep track of the number of same-sex couples who are fostering children but said a rough estimate is about 20 couples.
April and Beckie feel the judge imposed his religious beliefs on their family without examining their record as foster parents and the well-being of the baby.
“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,” said Beckie.
The mothers say they are looking for any attorney who will help them fight for the return of their foster child.