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Same-sex equality in the courts takes another step forward

14th-amendment-thumb-300x224-95266.jpgThe fight for same-sex equality in the arena of family law recently took a giant step forward.

A Utah judge who earlier decided to remove a foster baby from its same-sex foster parents decided to amend his decision and return the child to its original foster parents.

In his initial decision, the judge based his decision to remove the child from the same-sex, married couple based on research that, "has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home ...."

Did the judge have a change of heart or did he react to adverse publicity and criticism about his initial ruling? Some have surmised that the judge might have been concerned that his earlier ruling would be construed as a decision based on religion rather than an application of the law.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, the couple involved in this case, had been legally for a year and had passed all of the inspections, background checks and interviews required by the division of family services. As such, their status as a lesbian, same-sex couple was no surprise to family services.

It was, in fact, the child services division who filed a motion asking the judge to stay his order. The family services division even went so far as to threaten a formal appeal.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's most prominent LGBT civil rights organization, wants the judge investigated.

Lesbian and Gay Parenting, Adoption and Foster Care

A lot has changed since June 2014 when the US Supreme Court basically granted same-sex marriages. Since that time, same-sex couples have married, sought for the right to divorce, and now, fought for the rights to foster and possibly adopt foster children.

Given the fact that foster children can and do languish in the foster care system for too long, allowing same-sex couples to foster and adopt children can produce a positive outcome for all involved.

So far, 21 states have granted second-parent adoptions to lesbian and gay couples. What this means is, after one parent adopts a child, and then the second parent moves to adopt the child.

The good news is that state agencies and courts now apply a "best interests of the child standard" to decide whether the adoptions should go through. With this approach, a person's sexual orientation cannot be the basis for ending or limiting a parent-child relationship unless the court to rule that such a relationship would cause harm to a child.

So far, 22 states have used the standard to allow lesbians and gay men to adopt children through state-run our private adoption agencies.

There are several states that continue to rely on decades of bias and stereotypes and use sexual orientation to deny custody, adoption, visitation and foster care. Presently, Florida and New Hampshire bar lesbians and gay men from ever adopting children.

Arkansas recently adopted a policy barring lesbians, gay men, and anyone living with a gay person from serving as a foster parent.

While we have traveled a good distance from archaic biases, it wasn't that long ago - 1993, in fact - that a Virginia court took away a woman's two-year-old son merely because of her sexual orientation and transferred custody to the maternal grandmother.

Regardless of the reason the Utah judge decided to amend his ruling; I'm glad that he did.

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