By Nigel Boys
A lesbian couple were shocked on Tuesday when 7th District Court Juvenile Judge, Scott Johansen, who is known for his controversial rulings, ordered the child they had been fostering for three months to be placed with a heteros*xual couple for her benefit.
Thirty-four-year-old Beckie Peirce and her wife 38-year-old April Hoagland of Carbon County, Utah were astonished when Johansen told them that he had research to prove that children do better in heteros*xual homes than lesbian ones, the Washington Post reports.
“We love her and she loves us, and we haven’t done anything wrong,” Peirce said Wednesday. “And the law, as I understand it, reads that any legally married couple can foster and adopt.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the lesbian couple got married in October last year and earlier this year they were licensed as foster parents. The 1-year-old girl had been in Peirce and Hoagland’s care for three months pending the termination of her biological mother’s parental rights by the state.
The lesbian couple, who are also raising Peirce’s 12 and 14-year-old biological children, said they planned to fight the decision on Wednesday and have already hired an attorney to represent them. “The mother has asked us to adopt,” Hoagland said about the infant’s biological mother, adding that the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) also want them to keep the child.
Although Johansen did not provide specifics of his research proving children fair better with heteros*xual parents and a copy of the court order was not publicly available on Wednesday, the content of the case was confirmed by a court spokeswoman. DCFS were reportedly given seven days to find the child a home with new foster parents.
“We have a lot of support,” Peirce said on Wednesday. “DCFS wants us to have the child, the Guardian Ad Litem wants us to have the child, the mother wants us to have the child, so the only thing standing in the way is the judge,” she added.
The Tribune reports that this is not the first time Johansen has made headlines over controversial rulings he has made. He reportedly slapped a 16-year-old boy who became loud-mouthed during a meeting at the Price courthouse in 1995, for which he was reprimanded by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission in 1997.
The outspoken judge also told a woman to lop off her 13-year-old daughter’s ponytail as punishment for the teen cutting off the hair of a 3-year-old girl at a restaurant in 2012. If the mother offered to cut her daughter’s hair in court, Johansen said he would reduce the community service from the sentence by 150 hours.
However, Yahoo News reported on Friday that Johansen had reversed his decision and the lesbian couple could now keep the infant.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Hoagland said “We’re just happy we don’t have to say goodbye to her on Tuesday.” She added, “That’s a big relief.”
The news conference took place outside the courthouse in Price, where Johansen made his initial ruling on Tuesday. Peirce wore a T-shirt with a quote from pioneering gay leader Harvey Milk, stating, “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
Johansen’s reversal may have been partially due to the enormous pressure the case has received from National LGBT groups, who called his ruling “outrageous,” and Tweets from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Yahoo reports.
Clinton brought national attention to the case by mentioning it on Twitter in several posts and state officials, along with the lesbian’s attorney, demanded the judge reverse his decision.
Although it appears that Johansen has backed down under fierce criticism and pressure, he may still order the child be removed from the lesbian couple at a custody hearing scheduled for December 4.
“We all mistakes as humans,” said Peirce. “We all have our own opinions. Sometimes they come out in the wrong setting.”
“I’m not going to guess as to where it came from,” the paramedic continued. “I’m just going to be thankful that he decided to fix it.”