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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 13, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 46
Utah judge takes foster child away from Lesbian couple
Ruling aligns with new Mormon guidelines
Section One
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Utah judge takes foster child away from Lesbian couple
Ruling aligns with new Mormon guidelines

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Utah court has taken away the foster child of a married Lesbian couple and placed the infant with a straight couple instead.

April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce had planned to adopt the girl they had been raising for three months. The couple also has the support of the girl's biological mother.

In his November 10 ruling, Utah Judge Scott Johanson cited research that children do better when they are raised by heterosexual couples.

Hoagland believes the judge imposed his personal religious beliefs.

'We are shattered,' she told CBS affiliate KUTV news. 'It hurts me really badly because I haven't done anything wrong.'

Attorneys for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) plan to review the decision and may challenge Johanson's order.

The women were approved as foster parents after passing home inspections, background checks, and interviews with the DCFS.

DCFS director Brent Platt told KUTV the state does not track the number of same-sex couples who are fostering children but the state needs as many couples as possible to help raise the state's 2,600 children now in foster care.

'Any loving couple if they are legally married, and meet the requirements, we want them to be involved,' he said.

HRC issued a statement condemning Johanson's decision.

'Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust,' the group said.

'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.'

Mormons bar children of same-sex couples from baptism
The court ruling came only days after a new Mormon Church policy manual barring children of same-sex couples from baptism was leaked to the media.

Excommunicated Mormon blogger John Dehlin posted parts of the new guidebook on Facebook on November 5, provoking both grief and outrage from LGBT Mormons and ex-Mormons who had hoped the church would come to some accommodation with same-sex marriage.

According to the new Mormon rules, children of Gay and Lesbian parents may not join the church until they are 18, move out of their parents' home, and disavow same-sex relationships.

If they fulfill all those conditions, they must then request case-by-case approval from top Mormon leaders for baptism.

Their parents will be considered 'apostates,' the policy manual says, making it more difficult for the children to maintain ongoing relationships with them.

Dehlin, a straight supporter of LGBT rights who was excommunicated by the Mormon Church earlier this year, noted that 'the inclusion of same-gender marriage as specific grounds for apostasy is surprising only because it really paints the church into a corner, and leaves them less room to slowly finesse a change over time.'

'Progressives were still holding out hope, but many feel that this closes the door on future change,' he added.

Dehlin predicted that the new policy would 'trigger a huge round of excommunications for legally same-sex married Mormons.'

Before the new handbook came out, bishops and congregational leaders had more discretion in when and how to discipline Mormons in same-sex marriages. Now that same-sex marriage has been added to a list of conditions considered apostasy, church members in such marriages will be subject to disciplinary hearings that could result in excommunication.

'The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages,' Mormon spokesperson Eric Hawkins said in a statement. 'While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.'

Affirmation, an organization for LGBT Mormons and their families, said it had received 'a flood of reactions' from members expressing 'grief, shock, disbelief and spiritual confusion.'

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