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Utah Judge Removes Foster Child from Same-Sex Couple

By The Human Rights Campaign - 2015-11-14

Summary

Ruling may violate Utah Judicial Code of Conduct, leading to possible sanctions for judge with history of inappropriate conduct.

"Judge Johansen has already been disciplined once by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for slapping a teenager in a meeting."

Main Document

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, has filed a formal complaint and called for a full investigation into now-infamous Utah Judge Scott Johansen, who is reported to have ordered a child removed from the home of her married foster parents because they are a same-sex couple.

If Johansen ordered the child be removed because of the couple's sexual orientation, it would be a clear violation of the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct, which expressly forbids it. The complaint was filed with the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission. Read the full text of the letter here.

News reports emerged today that custody for the foster parents could remain in jeopardy. Judge Johansen has amended his order and allowed the child to remain with the parents until a new hearing on Dec. 4.

"Removing this child from a loving and permanent home based solely on the sexual orientation of its parents is not only discriminatory, but is also counter to the overwhelming evidence that children being raised by same-sex parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as those with different-sex parents," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "It is unconscionable that any judge would let bias interfere with determining the true best interest of a child and we strongly encourage the commission to take appropriate action to hold this Judge accountable and to affirm that personal bias has no place in judicial decisions in Utah."

Judge Johansen has already been disciplined once by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for slapping a teenager in a meeting.

Media reports have noted that Judge Johansen did not offer any evidence to the state to support his ruling that same-sex couples offer lesser environments for children. In fact, national medical and psychological organizations have unequivocally affirmed that a parent's sexual orientation has nothing to do with his or her ability to be a good parent. All major studies on the matter show that the sexual orientation of a parent is not related to a child's mental health and social development.

LGBT couples continue to face serious obstacles to adopt children in the United States. Studies have also documented that LGBT adults are willing to adopt the very children most in need of homes and those who wait the longest in temporary foster care the longest - those who are older and who may have special needs - and do so at a higher rate than heterosexual adults.

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