Lesbian couple’s baby judge off case

A Utah judge who sparked an outcry when he ordered a foster child to be taken from the home of her married lesbian foster parents has removed himself from the case.

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Seventh District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen disqualified himself from the case and referred it to the court’s presiding judge, Mary Manley, according to a copy of the court order published online by gay rights organisation Equality Utah.

The foster parents, Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland, had cared for the nine-month-old girl since August, but Johansen last week ordered state child welfare workers to remove the baby from the couple’s home because of their sexual orientation and find new foster parents within seven days.

He later amended his ruling, dropping the removal order in favour of a hearing to determine what was in the baby’s best interest.

“We are thankful that Judge Johansen has decided to step aside. Our greatest concern now is taking care of our beautiful baby foster daughter,” Peirce and Hoagland said in a statement sent to Equality Utah on Monday.

Earlier, the state Division of Child and Family Services, which opposed the order, said the judge had cited unspecified research that he said showed children were better off with heterosexual parents.

News of Johansen’s initial ruling angered gay rights and civil liberties advocates.

The national Human Rights Campaign urged the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission to investigate the judge’s actions.

The couple are already parents to Peirce’s 12-and 14-year-old biological children and said they were planning to adopt their foster child at the request of the girl’s biological mother.

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