Lisa Miller and her daughter, Isabella (photo courtesy Barbara Curtis)
An effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to have a judge jail the mother of a 6-year-old child for not delivering her daughter to another state for unsupervised visitation with a lesbian has been foiled.
Lawyers with the Florida-based legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel today appeared in court in Winchester, Va., to defend Lisa Miller from a complaint from the ACLU on behalf of Janet Jenkins.
The ACLU had wanted Miller jailed after she refused to deliver her daughter, Isabella, to Vermont for an unsupervised visit with Jenkins, a lesbian who has stated she believes it is not good for a child to be raised in a Christian atmosphere.
The ACLU also asked for a court order for Miller to pay for its attorneys.
But no jail time was ordered, and the court rejected the ACLU’s request for money, Liberty Counsel confirmed. Further, the court decided that future issues in the case would be handled in Bedford County, Va., where Miller and her daughter live, not Vermont.
The dispute is over Jenkins’ demands for custody of Isabella, with whom she has neither a blood nor an adoptive relationship.
The Virginia Court of Appeals earlier ruled that Virginia must recognize Vermont’s custody orders but has not decided if Virginia is required to enforce them. Liberty Counsel has argued that Virginia courts cannot enforce child custody orders arising from Vermont same-sex civil unions since the state doesn’t recognize that status.
Last year, a judge in Vermont gave Jenkins visitation rights with Miller’s daughter. Jenkins has pursued the case because of a previous relationship with Miller.
Liberty Counsel said, “Unrefuted testimony has shown that for the last five years, Janet has neither attempted to phone nor write Isabella. She has never sent Isabella a card of any kind for any occasion. Janet has refused to attend Isabella’s Christmas plays because she does not want to be around a Christian environment. She has also said that it is not in Isabella’s best interest to be raised in a Christian home.”
Alhough the court ruled Miller violated a Vermont judge’s visitation order, no fines were assessed against her. The court ordered that Lisa pay $100 per day for pending visitation orders issued in Vermont, but there are no pending visitation orders at this time, Liberty Counsel reported.
And the court ordered future disputes in the case will be heard in Bedford County, where Miller and Isabella live.
“I am very pleased that Isabella will have her mother with her tonight where she belongs, rather than in the jail cell the ACLU originally intended,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel.
“We look forward to the court of appeals, for the first time later this year, addressing the enforcement of this Vermont same-sex civil union order. Virginia’s Constitution and public policy clearly do not recognize orders arising from same-sex civil unions. Virginia law affirms the common sense definition of marriage between one man and one woman.”
Miller later left the homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian when her daughter was 17 months old. But Jenkins, Miller’s same-sex partner when she gave birth to Isabella, has been seeking full custody of the girl, claiming she was a parent even though she is not biologically related and never sought to adopt her.
The case has been further tangled because while Vermont recognizes the “civil unions” of same-sex partners, Virginia’s constitution specifically bans that recognition.
The case earlier was complicated when Jenkins’ Virginia attorney withdrew “after he was indicted for obstructing justice and tampering with evidence regarding a murder that occurred in his home, where his college male friend was sodomized and killed,” Liberty Counsel said.
Miller previously had 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.