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Are you my mother?

"Are you my mother?" Continued...

Issue: "Opium wars," May 12, 2007

And so, after 13 months in Vermont, in September 2003 Miller and Isabella returned to Virginia: "I had no money, no job, no identity-everything had been in Janet's name." Her brother offered to be guarantor for the lease on her house-and as a single mom beating out nearly 100 other applicants for a house rental, Miller began to see miracles stacking up, including a job, a church home, and the peace that passed understanding.

Then the legal fallout began, which continues to this day on three fronts:

Vermont: When Miller filed in November 2003 for dissolution of her civil union, Jenkins counter-sued for custody of Isabella. Jenkins was granted 10 days every third week pending the court's final order. When Miller filed a petition refusing the Vermont court's jurisdiction in the case, the court affirmed Jenkins' status as parent by virtue of the civil union. In 2006 the Vermont Supreme Court upheld this decision and found Miller in contempt and levied sanctions of $10,000 to be paid to Jenkins.

Virginia: In October 2004, a Virginia court awarded Miller sole custody of Isabella, a decision overturned in 2006 by the Virginia Court of Appeals. In March 2007, Liberty Counsel, now representing Miller, asked the Virginia Supreme Court to take the case, with no response to date.

U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court on April 30 denied review of the Vermont decision affirming Jenkins as legal parent of Isabella.

But, according to Liberty Counsel, this is not the end of the road. Ongoing litigation will eventually be cause for further review.

Contacted by WORLD, Jenkins referred questions to nationwide law firm Arent Fox, which represents her. Arent Fox attorney Joseph Price told WORLD the latest appeal is actually being handled on Jenkins' behalf by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Price said he believes the case will be resolved in Jenkins' favor because it appears Miller has been "jurisdiction shopping." (She has been forced to file in both Vermont and Virginia courts.)

And the litigation continues, as both sides were recently required to submit briefs to determine Isabella's final custody-at least in the eyes of Vermont.

The 22-page brief filed on behalf of Jenkins by attorney Lisa Chalidze on April 20 notes: "Ms. Miller's belief that homosexuality is sinful-one of her preferred justifications for estranging Isabella and Janet-can be traced back to the middle ages. Medieval canonical law viewed homosexuality as a sin."

Chalidze contends that Miller's faith places Isabella at risk since it will negatively impact her relationship with Jenkins. Jenkins claims she can provide a healthier, less prejudicial home with liberal visitation rights for Miller.

The Jenkins brief concludes:

"Vermont's pioneering stance on civil unions in 2001 spawned a national debate that continues to the present, in which more than half the states in this country have modified their laws to defy the legal protections afforded by Vermont. In fact, within the last two years 27 states have voted to modify their constitutions to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman."

On April 27, New Hampshire became the third state to join Vermont in granting civil unions. The Jenkins filing's characterization of 27 marriage-affirming states as being in defiance of Vermont's "pioneering stance" begs the question: Who's defying whom?

In the meantime, the question of Isabella's custody-with the lengthy appeal process and long-distance visitation-will not be answered soon. And just as certain: The Vermont/Virginia state clash is only the beginning.

According to Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and Liberty University Dean of Law, the conflicts will continue to escalate until a constitutional amendment defines marriage or until the Supreme Court intervenes. In the meantime, said Staver, "the tragedy is that innocent children are being used as political tools by groups that have an interest in fostering same-sex marriage."

-Barbara Curtis is a writer living in Waterford, Va., and a mother of 12

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