Judge Scott Johansen has a reputation for stern rulings that many consider unreasonable.
Utah judge Scott Johansen has ordered that a 1-year-old child be removed from her lesbian foster parents, saying the infant would be better off being raised by heterosexuals. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland have been raising the little girl for the last three months, and want to adopt the baby. They are legally married and have been approved as foster parents by the state.
Johansen stated that there is a lot of research indicating that children who are raised by heterosexual parents do better than those raised in gay-parent homes, although he declined to produce that research when asked. His ruling calls for the baby to be taken from their home within a week.
The Human Rights Campaign responded immediately, calling the judge’s order outrageous, shocking and unjust. Utah child services says the situation is difficult for them, having approved Peirce and Hoagland to raise the child. Director Brent Platt says he does not expect his caseworkers to ignore the order, even though it may not be legal and complying by removing the child may be breaking the law.
Judge Johansen has a reputation for harsh sentences. He once slapped a friend’s 16-year-old son who was suspected of stealing. In 2012 he ordered a teenager’s mother to cut off her daughter’s ponytail in exchange for a lighter sentence after the girl faced assault charges for giving a toddler an extremely short haircut. Johansen once sent a boy to jail for stealing a pack of gum after he got a poor report card, which violated his probation. He also challenged Utah homeschoolers to put their children in traditional school or risk losing them to foster care. The mother of one homeschooled family was ordered to put her children in traditional school within 24 hours or go to jail.
Reports of Johansen’s religious affiliation is not available, but he did attend law school at Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. Last week the church voted to exclude children of same-sex parents from baptism. The decision has been controversial and is prompting many to leave the church.
Utah Foster Care Foundation spokesperson Deborah Lindner said that she estimated that about 20 same-sex couples are presently fostering children in the state.
Peirce and Hoagland are raising Peirce’s biological children, aged 12 and 14.