Janet Jenkins, left, and Lisa Miller (HamptonRoads.com)
A ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court, if it goes the wrong way, could yank a 6-year-old girl from the Christian home her mother has created and set her up to be “paraded as a political trophy of the homosexual community in Vermont,” according to a lawyer who argued the case before the court today.
Mathew Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, said the impact of the decision will reach far beyond the important determination of the future for the child in question, also impacting states’ sovereignty and the values on which Christian parents make decisions.
“This case is exceptionally important because the future of [the child] Isabella hangs in the balance,” he said. “Her future will be to either remain with her biological mother, Lisa Miller, or potentially be ripped away from her mom and placed in a lesbian household… This case is also important because states must also have the sovereign authority to maintain their marriage policy as the union of one man and one woman, while rejecting same-sex unions. Virginia’s Constitution compels the state supreme court to not recognize out-of-state, same-sex marriages and civil unions.
“But if Virginia loses its sovereignty, then the sovereignty of every other state is put in jeopardy,” he said.
Staver argued on behalf of Miller, who left a lesbian relationship and became a Christian, and her daughter.
The other part of the now-terminated relationship, Janet Jenkins, has alleged that because of Miller’s Christian parenting practices, she no longer is a fit mother. She’s seeking full custody of the child.
The Vermont Supreme Court already has granted parental rights and visitation to Jenkins. But Miller and her daughter live in Virginia, and Miller has gone to the state’s highest court defending her right to custody and to raise her own daughter according to Christian parenting principles.
“This hearing will determine whether a lesbian woman who is Lisa Miller’s former partner will share custody of Isabella, Lisa’s daughter,” wrote Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America. “The woman is neither an adoptive parent nor is she biologically related to Isabella. In fact, she’s a total stranger to the little girl.
“Isabella, who is now 6 years old, hadn’t seen this woman since she was 17 months old. This case could have national ramifications and will help decide whether states like Vermont and Massachusetts get to export their radical new definitions of marriage and family around the country,” Barber said.
WND reported earlier when the Vermont Supreme Court opined that it, alone, has jurisdiction over the child custody battle because the pair lived together briefly in Vermont. That ruling came even though Miller gave birth in Virginia through artificial insemination, her daughter was born in Virginia and that’s where the mother and daughter now live.
The two women were living in Virginia in 2000 when they went to Vermont to get a “civil union.” Miller later gave birth to a girl, but the child was not adopted by Jenkins.
The relationship ended when Miller became a Christian and claimed Jenkins was abusive. Miller, who says she no longer is a lesbian, lives with her daughter in Virginia.
Lower courts in Virginia have ruled Miller is the sole parent and the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act bars recognition of civil unions. The Vermont Supreme Court, however, reached across state lines to demand that Miller allow Jenkins visitation.
Liberty Counsel characterized the case as a “precedent-setting legal battle between Virginia and Vermont over same-sex unions and the rights of fit, biological parents against unrelated third parties.”
Among the precedents developing in the case is whether one state can force another to recognize its “same-sex” arrangements or whether states’ sovereignty will prevail. Also at issue is the acceptance as valid Christian values parents use to raise children.
“That’s true. Janet Jenkins, in court documents in Vermont, argued because Lisa prays for her daughter and her well-being, and even prays for Janet, that in fact that is not in the best interests of Isabella. She [Jenkins] says because Lisa prays for her daughter, and tells her she’s praying to do God’s will, Janet has taken the position that … Christianity is harmful to children,” Staver told WND.
Staver said Vermont’s supreme court already has granted rights to Jenkins “as though she were in a marital relationship” and that if the Virginia court decision conflicts, the case automatically will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Barber noted Miller’s own account reveals emotional problems triggered by abandonment by her father, abuse from her mentally ill mother and a decade-long war with alcohol led her into the lesbian lifestyle. In 1999, the relationship with Jenkins was begun and on a weekend trip, they traveled from Virginia where they lived to Vermont for their “civil union.”
After Isabella was born, Miller and Jenkins moved to Vermont.
But things were unstable and Miller alleged Jenkins was abusive.
“It was a troubled relationship from the beginning,” Miller told “World Magazine,” The relationship did not improve as Jenkins … grew increasingly bitter and controlling.”
Months later, the relationship ended and Miller and her daughter returned to Virginia.
Then in 2003, Jenkins demanded that the courts in Vermont award her custody of Isabella, instead of leaving her with her mother.
Since the Vermont court’s ruling, Miller and her daughter “now [are] required to make the several hundred mile roundtrip journey from Virginia to Vermont every other week to visit a total stranger [Jenkins] who, according to reports, outrageously forces the confused and traumatized little girl to call her ‘momma,'” Barber said.
“After Lisa ended her relationship with Janet, when Isabella was only 17 months old, Lisa became a born-again Christian. … She has attempted to raise her child according to biblical principles,” said Rena M. Lindevaldsen, a Liberty Counsel who has worked on the case.
“According to recent filings by Janet, however, Janet believes that Lisa’s religious beliefs render Lisa incapable of properly parenting Isabella,” she said.
“Lisa and Isabella’s story tragically demonstrates that it’s all too often children who are ultimately victimized by state-recognized immorality. It’s the children who suffer when adults selfishly depart from God’s intended design for human sexuality and marriage – as reaffirmed by Christ’s teachings in the New Testament – and enter into counterfeit homosexual ‘civil-unions’ or ‘same-sex marriages,'” Barber said.
“Although Lisa and Isabella’s situation is both heartbreaking and unjust, it shouldn’t be at all surprising. In the name of so-called ‘gay rights,’ the militant homosexual lobby has made its position crystal clear. The selfish individual interests of those who define themselves based upon a choice to engage in deviant homosexual behaviors supersede the best interests of everyone else … even children,” Barber said.
There’s no timetable yet for the decision to be issued.