Lisa Miller and her daughter, Isabella (photo courtesy Barbara Curtis)
In a fierce custody battle between a Christian mother of a 6-year-old girl and the mother’s former lesbian partner, a Vermont judge has denied the homosexual woman’s requests for guardianship but is allowing her to have extended visits with the child.
As WND has reported, Lisa Miller left the homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian when her daughter, Isabella, was 17 months old. But Janet Jenkins, Lisa’s same-sex partner when Lisa gave birth to Isabella, has been seeking full custody of the girl, claiming she was a parent even though she is not biologically related to Isabella and never sought to adopt her.
The case has been further tangled by the courts, as Jenkins and Miller were joined in civil union in Vermont, but Miller and her daughter now live in Virginia, where the laws forbid recognition of civil unions.
Earlier this month, however, Judge William Sharp of the Shenandoah County Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia, ordered Miller to allow Jenkins a three-day unsupervised visit with Isabella. Miller was told that Isabella must visit the mother’s former lesbian partner in Vermont, and if she refused, the law would remove the girl by force, if necessary.
Miller told LifeSiteNews Sharp also ruled that Vermont’s civil union laws must be upheld in Virginia.
“At this point, the Virginia Marriage laws mean nothing,” wrote Miller in an email to friends and supporters. “Today, the homosexual agenda just marched through our back door.”
On Jan. 28, Liberty Counsel, a non-profit legal group, presented oral argument in a Vermont court. At the hearing, a judge-appointed expert said changing custody could cause harm to Isabella. While Judge William Cohen permitted Miller to retain custody, he refused to end or reduce the number of court-ordered visits between Jenkins and Isabella.
Isabella must now spend four days in March, the Memorial Day holiday and five weeks in the summer with Jenkins, he said.
“Lisa and Isabella need your continuing fervent prayer,” a statement from Liberty Counsel said this week. “Even a few days of visitation that was allowed under court order a few weeks ago caused emotional trauma to Isabella.”
Miller had previously refused to comply with Vermont’s orders for visitations, claiming Isabella reported being compelled to bathe naked with Jenkins while visiting and came home speaking of suicide.
Liberty Counsel chairman, Mathew Staver, told WND of Isabella’s traumatic visitations with Jenkins.
“She began having nightmares, bed-wetting, fears of leaving Lisa and even tried to physically harm herself after just a couple of visitations,” Staver said. “After having seen that, Lisa just simply said, ‘I cannot put my child in that situation anymore.’”
Miller appealed to the Virginia courts to overrule the visitation order, but upon threat of force and even jail, following Judge Sharp’s decision, she consented to allow another visit with Jenkins.
Now the Vermont judge has put Miller on notice that she risks losing custody altogether if she continues to violate court orders for visitation.
“At some point, Miss Miller’s behavior is forcing a hand,” said Cohen, according to the Rutland Herald.
The jurisdictional battle went before each state’s supreme court. Though Isabella was born in Virginia, and the Millers live in the state, the Virginia State Supreme Court stepped away from its own state’s precedents and affirmed the Vermont’s assertion of jurisdiction. The Vermont Supreme Court has determined that Jenkins is one of Isabella’s parents.
The case led to a clash over whether Vermont could reach over state lines to impose its civil union laws on Virginia’s soil. The U.S. Supreme Court could have also rendered a decision to clarify the conflict between the two states’ laws but declined to hear the case.
Miller’s attorney, Stephen Crampton, said the mother is thankful that she will be allowed to retain custody.
“She’s still pursuing appeals in Virginia, but we are hopeful we will not be back in Vermont for a while,” he said.
In a statement to supporters, Liberty Counsel said it plans to continue to pursue legal action in Virginia for Miller and Isabella.
“We know that the prayers for Lisa and Isabella are working,” it said. “In the past few months, Janet’s former attorney in Vermont withdrew from her case, her Virginia attorney was indicted for obstruction of justice in a situation involving the investigation of the death of a man in his home, and the judge has refused to give custody of Isabella to Janet.”