A week after mandating that the couple's child be taken from them, Judge Scott Johansen has removed himself from their case

By Cathy Free
Updated November 16, 2015 09:00 PM
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Credit: Courtesy of Fire and Ice Photography

A Utah judge has removed himself from the case of a lesbian couple hoping to adopt a foster child after ordering last week that the 9-month old be taken from the couple’s home because he believed it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.”

The case drew nationwide outrage including the scrutiny of Hillary Clinton, who chimed in on Twitter saying, “Being a good parent has nothing to do with sexual orientation – thousands of families prove that.”

Although 7th District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen reversed his decision on Friday and scheduled a Dec. 4 hearing, he decided late Monday to disqualify himself from the case entirely and turn it over to Judge Mary Manley, presiding judge of the district.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce of Price, Utah, who were legally married last year and have cared for the child as licensed foster parents since August, were relieved by the decision, saying in a joint statement, “We are thankful that Judge Johansen has decided to step aside. Our greatest concern now is taking care of our beautiful baby foster daughter. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from people all across the nation and we are grateful that our family is now being treated equally under the law.”

Hoagland, 38, a homemaker, and Peirce, 34, a paramedic, were stunned last week when they went to court expecting to receive permission to adopt the baby girl they’d grown to love and were instead told they had seven days to turn her over to Utah family services officials.

“The judge doesn’t know this child,” Hoagland told PEOPLE last week. “We love her. We’ve proven we’re fully capable of being her parents, and we feel that with this ruling, he only considered his personal agenda.”

On Monday, Utah state legislators were called on to impeach Johansen by Alliance for a Better Utah, a group whose mission is to hold public officials accountable.

“If Judge Johansen wants to act like Judge Judy, then he should get a reality TV show,” said Josh Kanter, the group’s chairman, who helped launch a petition at Change.org to get the judge removed from office.

Equality Utah, an LGBT advocacy group, also pressured Johansen to recuse himself from the case.

“LGBT parents love and adore their children with as much devotion as our heterosexual counterparts,” Troy Williams, Equality Utah’s executive director said on Monday. “Sexual orientation should never be a barrier to raising a loving family.”