Utah Judge Orders Child Removed From Lesbians and Sent to Traditional Home

Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

A Utah juvenile court judge ruled Tuesday that a 1-year-old girl, who has been in the care of lesbian foster parents, cannot be adopted by them and should be sent to “a more traditional home,” says the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

According to CNN, the case is the first major challenge to same-sex adoption rights. LGBT civil rights groups are outraged over the ruling.

While Judge Scott Johansen is not commenting on his decision publicly—per the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct—April Hoagland, one of the lesbians, married over a year ago to Beckie Peirce, told KUTV that Johansen said research indicates children in homosexual homes do not do as well as they do in heterosexual homes.

“[W]hen they asked to show his research he would not,” Hoagland added.

Hoagland and Peirce were approved as foster parents by the division of family services and are raising Peirce’s two children. They say the state and the child’s biological mother are supportive of their desire to adopt the child.

As CBS reports, the two women are part of a group of same-sex couples who were permitted to become foster parents in Utah following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Deborah Lindner, a spokeswoman for the Utah Foster Care Foundation, which trains foster parents for the state, said about 20 same-sex couples are caring for children in the foster program.

“Heartbreaking. We’ve been told to take care like a mother would and I’m her mother, and that’s who she knows and she’s just going to be taken away in seven days to probably another good, loving home,” Hoagland said. “But it’s not fair, and it’s not right, and it hurts me very badly, because I have done nothing wrong.”

“Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking and unjust,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It also flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that children being raised by same-sex parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as those with different-sex parents.”

“At a time when so many children in foster care need loving homes, it is sickening to think that a child would be taken from caring parents who planned to adopt,” he added.

Utah child and family services said they are reviewing the ruling to determine their options, including whether to challenge the order.

“This is the first time there has been an attempt to deprive gay foster parents of their rights to care for an adoptive child,” said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. “I believe it was a bizarre and highly unusual decision by the judge based most probably on religious beliefs rather than scientific facts.”

He predicted the case would be overturned by Utah appeals courts.

In 2012, however, sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin published research in the journal Social Science Research on a large, random sample of Americans of ages 18-39 who were raised in different types of families. The study of some 3,000 adults found numerous differences that exist among the various family arrangements and that outcomes for children of gay and lesbian parents were “suboptimal.”

In another study by Loren Marks of Louisiana State University—also published in Social Science Research—Marks debunked a 2005 policy brief on same-sex parents by the American Psychological Association (APA), in which the organization analyzed 59 studies and concluded “[n]ot a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.”

Marks observed that 55 of the studies analyzed by APA did not even “provide evidence of statistical power” in accord with APA’s own standards.

“[N]ot one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children,” Marks noted.

“[W]e have been left with large, scientifically strong studies showing children do best with their married mother and father–but which do not make comparisons with homosexual parents or couples,” observed Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at Family Research Council, “and studies which purportedly show that children of homosexuals do just as well as other children–but which are methodologically weak and thus scientifically inconclusive.”

However, Regnerus’s research, called the “New Family Structures Study,” included comparisons with children raised by same-sex parents and surveyed young adults about their experiences growing up in their family situations as well as their current life. Unlike other studies, Regnerus also did not rely on reports of children, while they were still living in their homes, or the potentially biased reports of the parents.

Regnerus found that children of homosexuals fared worse on 77 out of 80 outcome measures that compared children with same-sex parents to those from other family arrangements. Specifically, compared with children raised by married, biological parents, children of homosexual parents are more likely to be on public assistance, have lower educational attainment, and report both less safety in their childhood families and more continued “negative impact” from them. In addition, children of same-sex parents were found to more likely suffer from depression, to have been arrested more often, and to have had more male and female sexual partners if they are female.

For children of lesbian mothers, statistical significance in both direct comparisons and with control subjects was found in numerous areas in Regnerus’s research. Children of lesbian mothers were found to be four times more likely to be on welfare, more than three times more likely to be unemployed, nearly ten times more likely to have been “touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver,” and nearly four times as likely to have been “physically forced” to have sex against their will.

Despite numerous statistically significant correlations in his study and his carefully controlled methodology, Regnerus still cautions these relationships do not indicate causality. Still, as Sprigg noted, “The large number of significant negative outcomes in this study gives legitimate reason for concern about the consequences of ‘homosexual parenting.'”

“The myths that children of homosexual parents are ‘no different’ from other children and suffer ‘no harm’ from being raised by homosexual parents have been shattered forever,” he asserted.

Research cited by the American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS) also indicates that children need both a mother and father in order to experience healthy development.

According to Drs. Michelle Cretella and Den Trumbull:

[M]others and fathers parent differently and make unique contributions to the overall development of the child. Psychological theory of child development has always recognized the critical role that mothers play in the healthy development of children. More recent research reveals that when fathers are absent, children suffer as well. Girls without fathers perform more poorly in school, are more likely to be sexually active and become pregnant as teenagers. Boys without fathers have higher rates of delinquency, violence, and aggression.

“[T]radition and science agree that biological ties and dual gender parenting are protective for children,” the doctors continue. “The limited research advocating childrearing by same-sex parents has severe methodological limitations. There is significant risk of harm inherent in exposing a child to the homosexual lifestyle.”

“Given the current body of evidence, the American College of Pediatricians believes it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children, and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on same-sex parenting, whether by adoption, foster care, or reproductive manipulation,” they conclude. “This position is rooted in the best available science.”


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