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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 47
Utah judge removes himself from Lesbian child custody case
HRC files ethics complaint
Section One
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Utah judge removes himself from Lesbian child custody case
HRC files ethics complaint

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Utah state judge who took a foster child away from a married Lesbian couple first reversed his decision and then removed himself from the case as criticism of his ruling mounted.

Judge Scott Johansen originally removed a baby girl from the custody of April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce and placed the child with an opposite-sex couple. In his ruling, he cited supposed research claiming that children do better when raised by opposite-sex parents.

Hoagland and Pierce accused the judge of imposing his personal religious values and asked that he be disqualified from their case. The American Psychological Association has said there is no scientific basis for believing that Gay and Lesbian couples are unfit parents based on their sexual orientation.

Johansen reversed his order on November 13, allowing the baby girl to remain with the couple pending a new hearing he set for December 4.

However, he removed himself from the case November 16, shortly after HRC called for an investigation of possible ethics violations.

Taking the child away from Hoagland and Pierce merely because they are Lesbians is a clear violation of the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct, the group said. The code expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. HRC filed a complaint with the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission.

'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.'

The same day that HRC filed its complaint, the watchdog group Alliance for a Better Utah called for Johansen to be impeached.

'This guy now has a pattern of doing these kinds of outrageous things,' the group's founder, Josh Kantor, said.

According to Kantor, Johansen slapped a 16-year-old boy in 1995 after the boy supposedly spoke disrespectfully to him. Three years ago, a woman filed a complaint against the judge because he ordered her to cut off her 13-year-old daughter's ponytail in a plea deal, after the girl cut off a three-year-old's hair.

Johansen has been a judge since 1992.

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