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Equality news round-up: Utah judge removes child from same-sex parents, and more

Adoption LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

– A judge in Utah has ordered the removal of a child from a home because the child has same-sex parents.

– In Arkansas, a former state Supreme Court justice claimed that the court was ready to strike the same-sex marriage ban before Obergefell came down.

If anything else breaks, we’ll cover it.


  • 1. weaverbear  |  November 12, 2015 at 8:50 am

    This judge's actions should send ice water through the veins of any of us who've been parents, whether those children were ours biologically or not. It must be fought with everything we've got or none of our parental rights are safe. The message here is we are still lesser than, and that cannot be allowed to stand.

  • 2. guitaristbl  |  November 12, 2015 at 10:26 am

    What a heinous judge in Utah. An ethics complain must be filed against him immediately – the new (limited) anti discrimination law there may be put in good use in this case as well.

  • 3. FredDorner  |  November 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I love how the judge refuses to cite the (Regnerus) nonsense on which he based his ruling…….debunked nonsense which the state of Utah itself backed away from in their appeal of Kitchen v Herbert.

    No surprise at all that the judge is a Mormon.

  • 4. JayJonson  |  November 12, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Even the Governor and Attorney General of Utah seem unhappy with the obvious unfairness of this judge.

  • 5. FredDorner  |  November 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    That's pretty good news and likely indicates the AG will challenge the ruling. There's pretty much zero chance the ruling will stand on appeal.

    Hopefully this increases the level of blowback against the LDS cult.

  • 6. David_Las_Cruces_NM  |  November 12, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Mormonism and the mainstream LDS club (I suppose technically one could call it a “church”—Mormons themselves call it “The Church”. . . notice the explicit emphasis) does not exhibit all of the traditional, scholarly characteristics of a “cult”—just enough of the behaviors to qualify for the scholarly definition of a “cult-like organization.” Utahns get really, really upset and start throwing themselves a perfectly pretty pity party whenever their club is called a cult. . . not that anyone really cares that the difference between a “cult” and a “cult-like organization” is a collection of scholarly definitions that only a full professor of abnormal psychology would understand.


    (The author formerly was known as David_Midvale_UT.)

  • 7. VIRick  |  November 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    David, in Mexico, in Spanish, on the one hand, we have "la iglesia católica."

    And on the other, for everything else, we have "los otros cultos."

    It's embedded in the every-day language, and constantly pisses off the LDSs, the JWs, el culto apostólico y todos los otros cultos.

    I don't know how else to express it. There is no other word available.

  • 8. jcmeiners  |  November 13, 2015 at 8:53 am

    According to catholic church doctrine, only churches that are in the apostolic succession are churches. That rules out all evangelicals, etc. And churches that have the apostolic succession, but do not recognize the pope, like orthodox churches, are considered flawed churches.

  • 9. VIRick  |  November 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Thanks JC, that appears to be the underlying message that has penetrated down into ordinary, every-day speech.

    In fact, it also explains why in Brasil, in Portuguese, in ordinary, every-day language, they basically say the same thing.

    There, on the one hand, we have "a igreja católica," and on the other, "a adoração apostólica e todos os outros cultos, com a excepção de ortodoxo."

    Also, that word, "apostolic," becomes a bit tricky when switching languages. I see now why the evangelicals in Latin America prefer to call themselves "apostólicos," rather than "evangelistas," as self-declared "proof" of their "legitimacy" when going against "la iglesia católica."

  • 10. Eric  |  November 13, 2015 at 10:20 am

    A cult is any religion with fewer members than one's own.

  • 11. Shmoozo  |  November 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Or more.

  • 12. Mike_Baltimore  |  November 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    There are about 15 million Mormons in the world. Compare that with the 8.2 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, which is more than the Church of Christ [2,034,338 worldwide]; Presbyterian [less than 2,000,000 worldwide; Congregationalist – about 5,000,000 worldwide; etc.). Most, even most Mormons, would say Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, etc. are NOT cults.

    Most actual religious cults number in the dozins at most, some in the hundreds or very low thousands.

    And some believe Xianity, in it's early days, was nothing but a breakaway cult of Judaism that became more than a cult only when the number of Xians in the world numbered more than the low hundreds of thousands. Some think of it still as nothing but a cult.

  • 13. FredDorner  |  November 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    They're all cults by definition, some just have more members than others.
    "Mine is a denomination, yours is a sect, theirs is a cult."

  • 14. VIRick  |  November 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    UTAH: Anti-Gay Gov. Gary Herbert Says Judge Should “Follow The Law” In Gay Foster Parents Case

    Shortly after same-sex marriage was first legalized in Utah in late 2013, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to deny benefits to LGBT couples. Herbert was sued and lost. Therefore, today, 12 November 2015, he grudgingly said that the judge should “follow the law” when it comes to the lesbian couple ordered yesterday to surrender their baby to heterosexual parents. Ben Winslow reports at Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate:

    April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce are challenging 7th District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen’s decision to have the foster child removed within seven days, claiming the judge said research he’d done showed the girl would do better in a heterosexual household. The decision has brought condemnation from LGBT rights groups. The couple has met with attorneys to appeal Judge Johansen’s decision.

    Governor Herbert said Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services' top priority is to protect the safety and welfare of the child, putting them in a home that has been vetted. “I expect the court and the judge to follow the law. He may not like the law, but he should follow the law. We don’t want to have activism on the bench in any way, shape or form. Laws, sometimes people don’t like, but the judge should not interject his own personal beliefs and feelings and supersede the law,” Herbert said.

  • 15. David_Las_Cruces_NM  |  November 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Another link worth considering:

  • 16. allan120102  |  November 12, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    News from Colombia in terms of adoption not marriage .

  • 17. VIRick  |  November 12, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Here's a corrected link to Allan's reference:

    The tail-end of this article neatly summarizes the early rulings of Colombia's Constitutional Court on the subject of same-sex spousal rights:

    In 2007, the high court accepted de facto unions between same-sex couples (without considering marriage) and granted health care rights to same-sex spouses; the following year, they guaranteed pension rights for gay couples, and in 2009, they included other economic rights (like property and inheritance). And now, adoption.

  • 18. allan120102  |  November 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Interesting . There have been 40 same sex marriages in Colombia since the court ruling in 2011. Gay groups are asking the court to give a veredict that all notaries and judges should follow. As some are allowing marriages and other civil unions.

  • 19. VIRick  |  November 12, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Here's a further article (in Spanish) about one of those 40 or so marriages which have taken place in Colombia over the past two years. In this instance, the marriage took place in Medellín this past August between a transgender woman and a gay man. From the pictures, it would seem that María Paula and Juan Iván Arango put on quite a splashy affair, as they were married before a notary, with about 200 friends, family, and media in attendance, including a senator from the Liberal Party, Juan Manuel Galán.

  • 20. Fortguy  |  November 12, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Jordan Rudner, The Texas Tribune: No Evidence Yet of Backlash to Houston HERO Vote

    Before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a version of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year, several major companies — including the NFL, Delta Air Lines, and Major League Baseball — issued statements of concern, and many groups threatened boycotts. The bill would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers for religious reasons.

    Indiana faced a similar backlash earlier this year, when Gov. Mike Pence signed a version of the same bill. The NCAA described itself as “especially concerned,” executives at Apple, PayPal and Yelp expressed opposition, and at least one convention threatened to relocate.

    HERO advocates say they aren’t sure why the latest developments in Houston aren’t attracting as much attention. Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes — a coalition of businesses that lobbies for pro-LGBT policies they say will keep Texas economically competitive — said it’s hard to know what, if any, backlash there will be.

    “It’s impossible to predict to what extent the business community will react to what has happened in Houston,” Shortall said.

    Still, she said, cities can take economic hits in many forms — some more subtle than boycotts.

    “On a broader scale, there’s a talent issue to think about,” Shortall said. “Especially when we’re looking at millennials, the brand of a place is something that people who care about attracting talent to a state or region think about.”

    Shortall cited Fort Worth as an example — earlier this year, city officials told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Facebook examined the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, similar in language to HERO, before announcing it would build a new $1 billion data center.

    The effect of a given policy — or lack thereof, in HERO’s case — isn’t always quantifiable, she said.

    “It’s the cumulative effect of many individual decisions,” Shortall said.

  • 21. Fortguy  |  November 12, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Meanwhile, moving on up to the north end of I-45 in Dallas,

    Robert Wilonsky, The Dallas Morning News: Mayor to Dan Patrick: Dallas’ LGBT protections are not ‘about where people relieve themselves’

    The same people who helped kill Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance last week just discovered Dallas has had one on the books for 13 years. And they are not happy about that at all.

    On Tuesday the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to fine-tune some language in a long-standing anti-bias ordinance to distinguish between “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression,” two things initially grouped together in the definition of “sexual orientation” when Chapter 46 of the Dallas City Code was approved in 2002. The city’s LGBT Task Force worked on the amendment for a year — ever since Dallas voters overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment in November 2014 that added both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression” to the list of protections for city employees.

    The ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing.

    But in a statement released this morning — one that bore the headline “Patrick Statement on Dallas Bathroom Ordinance” — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick yet again insists the ordinance is intended “to allow men in women’s restrooms,” echoing his opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which was defeated last week. He joins state Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican, in calling for its repeal.

    “I was very proud to help lead the recent effort where an overwhelming majority of voters in Houston successfully voted down the misnamed and misguided HERO ordinance,” says Patrick’s statement. “That’s why yesterday’s decision by the Dallas City Council, in closed session, to fast-track the enactment of a similar ordinance to allow men in women’s restrooms is both mind-boggling and appalling.”

    The vote was conducted in open session — because the council cannot take votes behind closed doors. And after it passed, 15-0, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that Dallas is “very diverse, and we want to make sure everyone is protected.”

    In a statement offered as a response to Patrick’s, Rawlings said Wednesday afternoon that “our job as City Council members is to represent the citizens of Dallas. While we respect others’ points of view, our goal is to protect all of our citizens, including minority groups.”

    Said Rawlings, “Yesterday’s unanimous City Council vote did not change the scope of our 13-year-old anti-discrimination ordinance. We took action that is consistent with what our voters approved last year and the protections already afforded to our employees. It is not forthright or honest to minimize this issue to a question about where people relieve themselves.”

    This represents a change of heart for Mayor Rawlings.

    Not so long ago the gay community was furious with Rawlings after he refused to bring a marriage equality vote to the city council, proclaiming it a non-issue over which the council had no control. But in the last 18 months, following a low score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, the council revised the city’s Family Medical Leave Ordinance to include a “designated care recipient,” and extended pension benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian police officers and firefighters. <a href"">The city also updated its health-care plan to cover some transgender services.

    The article then re-posts a 2002 DMN article about the passage of the original 2002 ordinance. Of note is the prominence given to Fort Worth in both the DMN article and the Tribune article I posted above about Houston. Yes, you have to have lived there before to understand how, in so many ways in the bipolar DFW metro, Cowtown is more progressive than Big D.

  • 22. scream4ever  |  November 12, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    The judge in Arkansas refused to stay Fayettville's anti-discrimination ordinance despite the statewide law, so I don't see such laws having much force in the future.

    Houston really needs to pass the identical bill ASAP, citing the mistake made by certifying it early, and the fraudulent signatures collected by the opposition. Put them on the spot and make them do it right this time.

  • 23. Fortguy  |  November 12, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Unfortunately, SCOTX set a very different legal precedent in Texas explicitly showing that hate counts more than municipal charter rules regarding valid ballots even if those rules were upheld by, not only a trial court, but even a jury. Therefore, we have a very unfavorable climate compared to Arkansas.

    I agree that we need to push HERO again, but do it much smarter and more inclusively the next time. Let's cross our fingers that Sylvester Turner will be the new mayor and that he makes this his priority. Otherwise, we're SOL until the next mayoral election cycle.

  • 24. JayJonson  |  November 13, 2015 at 7:39 am

    We have to do it honestly. The pretense that the ordinance was not about gay and trans rights made it appear that our side was dishonest. And, of course, we must reach out to Hispanic and African American voters. And we have to be willing to attack the extremists directly, letting them know that bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry.

  • 25. scream4ever  |  November 12, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Well it would be in federal court, and out of the jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court.

  • 26. jcmeiners  |  November 13, 2015 at 10:40 am

    The Utah judge has reversed himself:

    I guess he saw the backlash…

  • 27. VIRick  |  November 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    In regard to this matter, and the original decision, this comment has been posted on Equality Case Files by an attorney:

    A judge has zero authority to "do his own research" and reach his own factual conclusions, let alone without giving the parties a chance to cross-examine those conclusions — in which case he is an expert witness, not a judge. This was not only a gross violation of "Obergefell," it was an even worse violation of the most fundamental principles of due process in an American court of law. Irrespective of whether Utah's judicial disciplinary body takes note (it should), it is impossible to imagine a more patently illegal type of judicial disposition than this.

  • 28. aiislander  |  November 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Absolutely correct! This D-bag should be removed from the bench pronto!

  • 29. VIRick  |  November 13, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Utah Judge Backs Off Order to Remove Foster Child from Same-Sex Couple’s Home

    Per Fox News 13, Salt Lake City:

    Price UT — A juvenile court judge has backed off his order that a foster child be removed from a same-sex couple's home to be placed with a heterosexual couple. In an order issued Friday, 13 November 2015, the 7th District Juvenile Court Judge, Scott Johansen, scratched out his original decision to remove the 9-month-old girl from April Hoagland and Beckie Pierce's home.

    The couple, who married in August, were approved to be foster parents after a vetting by Utah's Division of Child and Family Services. But during a recent hearing, Judge Johansen ordered the child removed from their home, indicating that he had seen research that showed a child did better if raised by a heterosexual couple. All parties involved in the case, including the Guardian ad Litem, DCFS, and the foster parents, objected.

    In today's ruling, Judge Johansen also scratched out his "belief" and instead wrote he had "a concern."

    The Utah Attorney-General's Office, which represents DCFS, filed a motion late Thursday, 12 November 2015, asking Judge Johansen to reconsider his ruling. On Friday morning, the judge allowed the child to remain with the lesbian couple, and set a December hearing for an update.

    "I'm really happy," DCFS Director Brent Platt stated on Friday. "It's not over yet, but at least we don't have the Tuesday (17 November 2015) deadline. The child can stay with the foster parents. That's exactly what we want to have happen, and hopefully, we'll be better prepared at court to even justify our reasoning even more." Platt called the couple "a good family," and said DCFS caseworkers felt the child was "a good fit." "We have no reason to change our minds," he said.

  • 30. FredDorner  |  November 13, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I hope the family files for a change of judge before the adoption hearing. There's no way this LDS bishop should be sitting on any case involving gays due to his anti-gay bias.

  • 31. davepCA  |  November 13, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    "The Utah judge has reversed himself"……..

    This judge still ought to, um, go do something else with himself.

    What a miserable jerk. I hope this guy gets absolutely crushed by every kind of legal action that could possibly be applied to this situation.

  • 32. VIRick  |  November 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    And just for shits and giggles, we have this earth-shattering ruling:

    Pastafarian Strikes Blow For Religious Liberty

    A Massachusetts woman has won the right to wear her Holy Headgear in her driver’s license photo. The "Boston Globe" reports:

    Lindsay Miller claims the spaghetti strainer is a sign of her devotion to the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Miller was originally denied by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles the right to wear the colander, her lawyer said. According to the RMV’s website, drivers are not allowed to wear hats or head covers in their photos, unless they are worn “for medical or religious reasons.”

    Miller fought the RMV’s decision, and enlisted the help of Patty DeJuneas, a member of the Secular Legal Society, which is the network of lawyers that assist the American Humanist Association. “The First Amendment applies to every person and every religion, so I was dismayed to hear that Lindsay had been ridiculed for simply seeking the same freedoms and protections afforded to people who belong to more traditional or theistic religions,” DeJuneas said in a statement.

    Pastafarians have won similar battles in New York, Utah, and Texas. See triumphant photo/article here:

  • 33. Fortguy  |  November 13, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Meet the Luciferians, who just opened up the Greater Church of Lucifer on Main Street in the Houston suburb of Spring.

    Leif Reigstad, Houston Press: In Lucifer’s Name: Michael Ford’s Invented Religion Comes to Old Town Spring

    The Luciferian philosophy requires open-mindedness and welcomes different opinions, and while no two Luciferians are exactly alike, the lot of them have one thing in common: a deep distrust of established religion.

    Luciferianism is a “nondogmatic” theology — members do not bow before any deity. There are dozens of small statues of Baphomet and other horned figures scattered about the church (even in the restroom, a dark skull-and-snake figurine shares space with bottles of Febreze and lavender-scented hand soap). There is a vivid mural of a muscular Lucifer — “the enlightened one” — lounging on a grassy knoll and gazing into the stars (head bathed in a ring of flames), and also a cubbyhole with dark robes hanging in it in the back corner (next to a clear plastic container of chocolate chip cookies). But the Luciferians still want you to know, in no uncertain terms, that they do not in fact worship Satan.


    Many Luciferians are marginalized members of society — those from the LGBTQ crowd, recovering substance abusers or simply people who became unhappy in the religions they grew up with and struggled to find a better communal spiritual experience. Luciferianism is less a religion than a self-help book.

    The church is located in the "Old Town Spring" downtown district where early 20th Century buildings preserve a small town commercial ambiance in what has grown into a metropolitan suburb. The church has received a lot of push-back, but most of the protesters had to be bused in from elsewhere.

    The protesters came from out of town, and most of the locals in Old Town Spring appeared apathetic at most, except for some curious passersby gawking at the sideshow of protesters, and a few local businesses who were less than welcoming to their new neighbors (Beyond Blessed Books, for example, exhibited a handmade clapboard sign declaring, “Be Aware Beyond Blessed Is A Christian Store We Honor Jesus Christ Here,” in pristinely painted blue and red handwriting, with curlicue tails garnishing the interior O’s in “Honor” and the long end of the J in “Jesus,” because even in protest, Old Town Spring can’t help being cute).


    On Friday, the day before Halloween and the first day of the Greater Church of Lucifer’s weekend-long grand opening, historic Main Street was filled with protesters. They were divided into three groups: The Hispanic Catholics stood directly in front of the church, saying prayers and singing hymns; next to them gathered some Christians from Las Vegas promising doom and gloom and raptures — two leathery-skinned and tattooed men shouting through bullhorns, a bald-headed man in a sleeveless tee propping up a large wooden cross, and, clutching a blood-red sign that said “Wait Til You Die!” a middle-aged woman with a chain-smoker’s cackle and an unsettling resemblance to a pear-shaped Popeye.

    Across the street, standing four deep along the concrete pad of a used bookstore, were members of the conservative Catholic political activist group The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, who had come all the way from Pennsylvania to protest and play dress-up. They sauntered through Old Town Spring in their classic tweed suits and horn-rimmed glasses while a personal video production team captured their every move. They even brought their own statue of Mary, which a quartet of stone-faced men in sashes and robes paraded around town, carrying Mary propped on their shoulders like slaves would an Egyptian pharaoh. They stuck around for two or three hours, said a few Hail Marys, wept a bit, chanted “Tradition! Family! Property!” three loud times, and turned around and walked away, presumably headed straight home to Pennsylvania.

    So, there you have it. A community that professes open-mindedness and rejects dogmatism is being protested by sheeple from much larger cults who can't imagine how to live their lives without others spoon-feeding them beliefs from books of ancient magic spells.

  • 34. Sagesse  |  November 14, 2015 at 4:33 am

    Just listened to this (wearing headphones… it truly is NSFW). I have no idea how much of the language is in the original letter, but this is one astute young ex-Morman.

    Watch: Comedian Lewis Black Reads 18 Year Old's Awesome Resignation Letter To The Mormon Church [NCRM]

  • 35. davepCA  |  November 14, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I cannot think of a better person to be reading that letter out loud than Lewis Black. That was quite cathartic!

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