Last November, Utah Judge Scott Johansen ordered April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce’s foster daughter removed from their home and placed with a heterosexual couple. Hoagland and Peirce were eminently qualified, but Johansen decided that the child would do better with straight parents—despite scores of studies debunking his theory. The decision was eventually reversed, an inevitability given that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision effectively wiped out anti-gay adoption laws. But now Utah Republican Rep. Kraig Powell would like to restore those old rules, by making it official state policy to favor heterosexual adopters over same-sex ones.
Powell’s bill would target any same-sex couple that hoped to adopt or foster a child from the state foster care system, which currently holds about 2,700 kids. Since Obergefell v. Hodges, Utah has stopped considering sexual orientation when placing children with foster parents. Should Powell’s bill pass, that would change: Judges and agencies would be required to “grant preference to rewarding custody” to straight parents over gay ones. The state could still permit gay couples to foster and adopt, but only those children whom no straight couples wanted. Powell argues that the bill is necessary to ensure that children are exposed to both male and female role models—although the gender diversity theory against same-sex adoption has been empirically debunked time and time again.
It might go without saying that such legislation is obviously unconstitutional, a violation of both due process (by impeding gays’ right to raise children) and equal protection (by disfavoring gays out of animus). But Powell isn’t too concerned that his measure might be unenforceable for the time being. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Powell acknowledged that anti-gay legislation is currently invalid—but he noted that “the Supreme Court might change its mind and we might have a change in national policy,” allowing such laws to be “reactivated.” Put differently, Powell is waiting for President Ted Cruz to replace one member of the Obergefell majority with a staunch conservative, allowing his bill to come into force.
“This is a prime example of hate doing nothing more than wasting time and money,” Scheer told me. “I wish people in power like Mr. Powell would speak to kids in foster care. Children in foster care don’t care if they have one parent, two parents, gay parents, or straight parents. They just care that they are safe and loved and have a parent and a home to call their own.”