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January 15, 2010

 

Virginia mom vanishes with child to keep ex-partner away

Fairfax, Va.--An “ex-lesbian” who was ordered repeatedly by courts to allow her former partner visitations with their daughter has absconded with the child, failing to meet on January 1 to hand over the girl.

Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2000, and Miller gave birth to Isabella in 2002. After the women’s relationship ended in 2003, Miller moved to Virginia and began identifying as a born-again Christian, saying she was no longer a lesbian.

Miller asked a family court in Rutland, Vermont to dissolve the civil union and grant her custody of the child, which it did.

The court also ruled, though, that Jenkins be granted visitation rights.

Miller tried to have the ruling vacated in courts in Virginia, arguing that since that state does not recognize same-sex relationships, a custody agreement stemming from one could not be held as valid.

The case eventually made it to the high courts of both states, which each upheld the Rutland court’s ruling. Miller appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.

Another appeal, filed on Miller’s behalf by the religious-right legal group Liberty Counsel, argues that the state would violate its own public policy by enforcing the order from Vermont.

After being warned that a continued refusal to allow Jenkins visitation would endanger Miller’s custody of the girl, Judge William Cohen in Rutland granted Jenkins sole custody.

A court in Bedford, Virginia ordered on January 4 that the custody transfer go ahead, but Miller had disappeared.

Miller has not been in touch with her attorneys for over a month, and they do not know where she or the child are.

Jenkins’ attorneys filed an emergency motion for contempt of court against Miller, and sought a warrant for her arrest.

The case pitted Virginia state law against the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution, which requires states to honor legal decisions from other states. The most readily visible example of the clause is the recognition of driver’s licenses issued in other states.

"Isabella is my daughter," reads a statement from Jenkins released by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a pro-gay legal group. "I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.”

"My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa,” Jenkins’ statement continues. “I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. I just want to be with her, like any parent. Please help me find my child."

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