The Virginia State Supreme Court whiffed today on an opportunity to preserve state sovereignty and solidify traditional marriage laws. Instead, the court upheld a ruling that may allow states like Massachusetts and Vermont to export homosexual marriage laws across the country.
The case centers on the fate of Isabella Miller, a 6-year-old girl born in Virginia to her mother, Lisa, while Lisa was bound in a civil union (performed in Vermont) to Janet Jenkins.
Janet Jenkins, left, and Lisa Miller (HamptonRoads.com)
Lisa later became a Christian, left her lesbian relationship and moved permanently to Virginia with her daughter. When she sought to dissolve her civil union, however, Jenkins, who lives in Vermont, sought custody of the child.
Though Virginia’s law specifically disregards homosexual civil unions from other states, a Vermont court ruled that it – and not Virginia – had jurisdiction over the custody battle.
Vermont’s court then ruled that though Jenkins had never adopted the child, she still had parental visitation rights based on her former civil union with Miller.
The case led to a clash over whether Vermont could reach over state lines to impose its civil union laws on Virginia’s soil.
Mathew Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, told WND earlier that “states must 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.”
Though a Virginia county court agreed with Staver, the appeals court did not.
Furthermore, the appeals court ignored an argument by Staver and the Liberty Counsel on Miller’s behalf to recognize Virginia’s new Marriage Amendment (defining marriage between one man and one woman), put into effect during the course of the case. Instead, the appeals court cited a federal law that compels states to honor other state’s claims to jurisdiction. The court decided in favor of Jenkins.
The Virginia State Supreme Court could have made a ruling to put the issue to rest. Instead, it also chose to ignore the implications of Virginia’s Marriage Amendment, and ruled that as no new arguments were presented in the case, the appeals court ruling must stand.
The decision falls strangely on the heels of a yesterday’s Stadter v. Siperko decision, where the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 to refuse parental rights to a former same-sex partner over the objections of the child’s biological mother. In that case, however, both partners live in Virginia, without the blessing of another state’s civil union.
“That case is a model decision,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver, “ruling you can’t have a third party interfere with parental rights.”
“We essentially have two people (Lisa Miller and Jennifer Siperko) living in Virginia with similar circumstances, similar cases, but with different results. The difference is that one case is entirely within the state of Virginia, and in the other (Lisa Miller’s case), Vermont is trying to undermine Virginia law and sovereignty.”
The court may have sidestepped the sticky constitutional issues with this ruling, but according to Staver, the Millers will be compelled to continue the fight. “It could have been over today for Lisa Miller and her daughter had the court addressed the amendment issue, and she could have lived in peace. But that’s not going to happen now.”
Staver anticipates that if Jenkins or the state of Vermont attempt to enforce the stipulations of the civil union custody ruling in Virginia, that Miller will have to start over again at county court. The arguments on her behalf in the next round of legal wrangling, however, will center on Virginia’s Marriage Amendment, so this time, the upper courts won’t be able to ignore it.