June 6, 2008

Virginia Supreme Court Sidesteps the Legal Conflict with Vermont Civil Unions

Richmond, VA – Today, the Virginia Supreme Court sidestepped the underlying legal conflict between Vermont same-sex civil unions and Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act ("MAA"). The MAA, which was passed by the Virginia legislature in 2004, states that Virginia does not recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships. Today's ruling did not address the reach of the MAA, and let the appeals court ruling stand. In the case of Miller v. Jenkins, Liberty Counsel represents Lisa Miller and her six-year-old daughter.

The Virginia Supreme Court also did not address Virginia’s state constitutional marriage amendment that was passed in November 2006 and became effective on January 1, 2007. That amendment to the state constitution also bans same-sex marriage and similar same-sex unions. The Court did not address this amendment because the justices held that matter was not before the Court of Appeals. The amendment was actually passed after the case had already been argued at the Court of Appeals.

Lisa is the fit, biological mother of her six-year-old daughter, Isabella, with whom Janet Jenkins has neither a biological nor an adoptive relationship. In 2000 while living in Virginia, Lisa and Janet entered into a Vermont civil union. Lisa gave birth to her child in Virginia through artificial insemination from an anonymous donor. The relationship ended when Janet became abusive and Lisa became a Christian, leaving the lesbian lifestyle. In Virginia, where Lisa resides, the state law and constitutional amendment do not recognize any rights associated with same-sex unions.

Following this ruling, Liberty Counsel will pursue two separate courses of action. First, Liberty Counsel is considering filing a separate action in Virginia, raising the state constitutional marriage amendment as a defense to the Vermont Civil Union. Second, Liberty Counsel will petition the United States Supreme Court to hear the separate court ruling from the Vermont Supreme Court.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented on the ruling: "While we are disappointed that the Virginia Supreme Court sidestepped the legal conflict with Vermont’s same-sex civil unions, we are not deterred. We will pursue further legal action in Virginia to defend against same-sex marriage and civil unions, using the recently passed state constitutional amendment. This case illustrates that one state is not an island when it comes to same-sex unions. Traditional marriage and strong families are foundational to society. This case is not over by any means. We will continue this battle between Virginia and Vermont, between traditional marriage and same-sex unions, because so much depends upon it."


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