Lisa Miller Case With Conflict Between States Over Same-Sex Union at Court of Appeals

Dec 10, 2009

Alexandria, VA – Yesterday, Liberty Counsel appeared in court to defend Lisa Miller. The ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense Fund are seeking to transfer custody of Lisa’s biological daughter, Isabella, to Janet Jenkins, a lesbian living in Vermont.

The Virginia Court of Appeals heard oral argument on the issue of whether Virginia must enforce a custody order and visitation order arising from a Vermont same-sex civil union. Virginia’s state law and constitution expressly ban enforcement of any right or order arising from same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. The prior litigation focused only on whether Virginia had to register the Vermont order. This case presents for the first time whether Virginia must enforce the terms of the civil union order, which Virginia law declares to be “void in all respects.”

The Vermont trial court recently ordered that Lisa must give up custody of her daughter and place custody with Janet, despite the fact that the same court has repeatedly found Lisa to be a fit parent of Isabella. The Vermont court has ordered the transference of custody to take place by January 1, 2010.

Unrefuted testimony has shown that for the last five years, Janet has neither attempted to phone nor write Isabella. She has never sent Isabella a card of any kind for any occasion. Janet has refused to attend Isabella’s Christmas plays, because she does not want to be around a Christian environment. She has also said that it is not in Isabella’s best interest to be raised in a Christian home.

There is no set time frame in which the Virginia Court of Appeals will issue its ruling. Liberty Counsel argued that the order arising from the Vermont same-sex civil union is void and unenforceable in Virginia.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The critical time has arrived in this case. The law is clear that same-sex unions and any right arising from such unions are void and unenforceable in Virginia. The legislature and the people have spoken clearly and with one voice on this issue. The future of Isabella is literally being weighed in a balance between two states. Same-sex unions affect children. Such unions deprive children of the opportunity for both a mother and a father.”

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