A four-day trial in Vermont concluded last week over custody and visitation issues between a once lesbian couple that had a child during their civil union.
Lisa Miller had attempted to have her civil union with former partner Janet Jenkins ruled as void so that she could gain sole custody of her daughter, Isabella. The Vermont Supreme Court last Thursday upheld the validity of their civil union, however, thus forcing the biological mother to drive her daughter from Virginia to Vermont to visit her former partner.
Miller wants to make an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the verdict since the two had lived in Virginia during their union. Virginia does not recognize same-sex unions.
"Today's ruling tramples on parental rights and state sovereignty," commented Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of faith-based Liberty Counsel, in a Mar. 5 statement. "Virginia law refuses to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Vermont does not have the right to impose its same-sex union policy on Virginia."
In 2000, the lesbian partners were residents of Virginia, and had traveled to Vermont to gain a civil union. Following this, in 2001, Miller had a child via artificial insemination, and in 2002, they all moved to Vermont.
In 2003, the two separated after Miller became Christian. No longer a lesbian, Miller filed for a dissolution to their civil union, similar to a divorce, after she had moved back to Virginia.
In June 2004, a Vermont family court granted Jenkins visitation rights while a Frederick County court issued a contradicting statement.
Following this, the suit went to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, where the judge issued a statement that the state had no jurisdiction over the civil union, and that the authority would be given solely to Vermont's verdict.
Recently, the Vermont Supreme Court sided with Jenkins, stating that the unrelated parent would gain visitation rights with Isabella.
Miller and her lawyers are not satisfied with the verdict and are trying to appeal to send it to the Supreme Court. This is pending, however, since the Virginia Court of Appeals must first uphold the lower Virginia court's ruling.
"The Vermont ruling illustrates that same-sex marriage or civil unions will inevitably clash with other states," added Staver. "This case will have to be resolved at the United States Supreme Court."
The case is distinctive in that it is the first time that two state courts have issued conflicting decisions. It is also the first to involve two federal laws: the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), which requires courts to recognize out-of-state custody and visitation orders, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allows states to reject out-of-state, same-sex unions.
"The unanticipated consequences of [civil unions] are wreaking havoc in childrens' lives all across America," explained a statement by Liberty Counsel. "Lisa is a very good mother. Her little girl accepted Jesus last year and is growing as a Christian.
"Please pray that the judge does not grant custody or visitation of this innocent little girl to the lesbian, who is now involved in another same-sex relationship."