SALT LAKE CITY — Utah state child welfare officials on Wednesday were reviewing a ruling by a juvenile court judge who ordered a baby to be taken from lesbian foster parents and instead placed with a heterosexual couple for the child’s well-being.
Judge Scott Johansen’s order Tuesday raised concerns at the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, agency spokeswoman Ashley Sumner said.
Its attorneys plan to review the decision and determine what options they have to possibly challenge the order.
The ruling came during a routine hearing for April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce. They are part of a group of same-sex married couples who were allowed to become foster parents in Utah after last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal across the country, Sumner said.
Hoagland and Peirce told CBS affiliate KUTV that they are distraught after the ruling that calls for the baby girl they have been raising for three months to be taken away within a week.
They said Judge Johansen cited research that children do better when they are raised by heterosexual couples. Hoagland believes the judge actually imposed his religious beliefs.
“We are shattered,” she told the station. “It hurts me really badly because I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The women, who are legally married, were approved after passing home inspections, background checks and interviews with the DCFS. They hope to adopt the baby and have the support of the child’s biological mother.
Judge Johansen is precluded by judicial rules from discussing pending cases, Utah courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.
Sumner said she can’t speak to specifics of the case but confirmed that the couple’s account of the ruling is accurate — the judge’s decision was based on the couple being lesbians. The agency isn’t aware of any other issues with their performance as foster parents.
DCFS director Brent Platt told KUTV the state does not track the number of same-sex couples who are fostering children but the state needs as many couples as possible to help raise the state’s 2,600 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, a 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.
The ruling triggered a heated response from the Human Rights Campaign. The gay rights group called the order shocking, outrageous and unjust.