Lesbian-turned-Christian Lisa Miller does not need to go to jail nor pay fines for failing to deliver her seven-year-old daughter to her former girlfriend in Vermont for visitation, a Virginia judge ruled on Tuesday.
On behalf of Janet Jenkins, Miller’s former lesbian partner, the ACLU of Virginia had asked the state’s court to order the defendant to jail and pay attorney fees and costs.
But the judge ruled that although Miller violated a Vermont judge’s visitation order, no fines would be assessed against her. The court ordered Miller to pay $100 per day for pending visitation orders issued in Vermont, but there are none at this time.
The case has been drawn out for five years and the main dispute is over the custody of Isabella, who was conceived when the two women were living together in Virginia. Miller carried Isabella and is her biological mother.
Miller and Jenkins lived in Virginia but went to Vermont to obtain a civil union in 2000. The couple split in Vermont and Miller moved back to Virginia with her daughter after renouncing her homosexuality.
Last year, a Vermont court ordered Miller to turn over Isabella for unsupervised visitations with Jenkins. Miller later asked a Frederick County, Va., judge to nullify the visitation order after Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage took effect. The judge agreed but that ruling was reversed by the Virginia Court of Appeals which said the Vermont court's order must be recognized.
Miller appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.
Liberty Counsel, the organization representing Miller, argued last week in a Vermont court that Jenkins is neither Isabella’s biological nor adoptive mother.
Moreover, Jenkins is a practicing lesbian and Miller does not want Isabella to be exposed to the homosexual lifestyle.
"This is a heart-wrenching situation where the mother, Lisa, knows that putting her child in an activist lesbian lifestyle is harmful for her," said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, to Christian Broadcasting Network.
"Isabella is the pawn in this agenda for Janet and Lisa stands to be put in jail and have her own daughter literally ripped away."
According to Liberty Counsel, Jenkins has not attempted to phone or write to Isabella for the last five years. She has never sent Isabella a card for any occasion, and does not want to attend the girl’s Christmas plays because she does not want to be in a Christian environment. She has also said it is not in Isabella’s best interest to be raised in a Christian home.
The court case will continue this fall with the Virginia Court of Appeals scheduled to hear oral arguments on the issue of whether Virginia must enforce Vermont’s orders. The appeals court previously ruled that Virginia must recognize Vermont’s orders but has not ruled on the enforcement issue.
Staver has argued that the appeals court improperly ignored a Virginia statute and a constitutional amendment that prohibit same-sex unions and the recognition of such arrangements from other states. Liberty Counsel maintains that Virginia courts cannot enforce child custody orders arising out of Vermont’s same-sex civil unions.