Utah to challenge order to take baby from lesbians

State officials are challenging a decision made by a Utah judge

Foster parents April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce are photographed on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 in Salt Lake City. A judge who ordered that a baby be taken away from April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, her lesbian foster parents and placed with a heterosexual couple should follow the law and not inject his personal beliefs into the matter, Utah's Republican governor said Thursday, Nov. 12. (Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State officials are challenging a decision made by a Utah judge to a take a baby away from lesbian foster parents and place her with a heterosexual couple for the child’s well-being.

Utah Division of Child and Family Services officials said Thursday in a statement that they will fight the ruling at the appeals court if Judge Scott Johansen doesn’t rescind his decision.

The state agency said the judge went against its recommendation that the 9-month old baby should stay with April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, a married couple.

In his decision, Johansen mentioned research that shows children do better when raised by heterosexual families, state officials said. However, the American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for believing that gays and lesbians are unfit parents based on sexual orientation.

A full transcript of the ruling has not been made public and may not be because court records of cases involving foster children are kept private to protect the kids.

Johansen is precluded by judicial rules from discussing pending cases, Utah courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.

The decision has generated widespread criticism, including from national LGBT groups and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert said Thursday that Johansen should follow the law and not inject his personal beliefs into the decision. The state’s Republican governor told reporters that he is puzzled by Judge Scott Johansen’s ruling.

“He may not like the law, but he should follow the law. We don’t want to have activism on the bench in any way, shape or form,” the governor said.

The couple is 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. State officials don’t keep an exact count but estimate there are a dozen or more foster parents who are married same-sex couples.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Hoagland and Peirce have not been successful, but the couple told KUTV that they are distraught.

The ruling triggered a heated response from several civil rights groups.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton also tweeted about it.

“Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation — thousands of families prove that,” she wrote on her Twitter account, with a link to the KUTV story.

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