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Towards giving same-sex couples full rights

Where same-sex relationships are concerned, the law, if not mentalities seem to be changing in the United States.

Last week, a Utah judge who had previously made a ruling to have a 9-month-old baby girl removed from her foster parents rescinded the order amid protests.

The fact that the protests happened in Utah, one of the most conservative states in the United States and the heart of the Bible belt, is what makes the news all the more surprising, and shows that mentalities are somewhat changing.

In June this year, the United States Supreme Court passed a law making same-sex marriage legal. It was the Obergefell v. Hodges case that brought about the need for the law to be passed, and for gay rights activists, that case also resolved the question of whether same-sex couples could adopt. Adoption was even specifically listed among the rights accorded to married couples because some states, including Utah, required that parents be married before a child could be placed with them.

No doubt then that the initial ruling of the judge ordering “the division to place the child with a duly married, heterosexual foster-adoptive couple within one week” provoked outrage. As for the potential adoptive parents April Hogaland and Beckie Peirce, sadness was more the emotion they felt.

“It is not fair, and it is not right, and it hurts me very badly, because I have done nothing wrong,” Hogaland did say when the ruling fell.

Indeed the judge’s decision wasn’t right, at least where the law was concerned. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services, who had been supportive of the family throughout, filed a motion for the judge to stay his order.  Had Judge Johansen not rescinded the ruling, the child division service would have petitioned the court of appeals.

The Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBT rights organization, has called for an investigation even though the issue has now been resolved.

“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.”

In the same vein, the governor of Utah added, “we don’t want to have activism of the bench in any way, shape or form.”

Alas, not everyone in the conservative state shares the opinion of their governor.  At the announcement of the legalization of same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church in Utah decided to exclude children of same-sex couples from being baptized.  Unlike their counterparts, they would have to wait until the age of 18 to receive the sacramental rites.  Goes to show that laws can only go so far.

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