- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Attorneys for a woman who is seeking visitation rights from her former partner argued yesterday that Virginia had no right to interfere in a custody dispute between two women who had been joined by Vermont’s civil union law.

“The basic question here is whether Virginia had any authority to get involved,” said Rebecca Glenberg of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Vermont clearly has jurisdiction in this case, and Virginia does not.”

In response, attorneys for Lisa Miller said she should have sole custody of the child she conceived through artificial insemination during her civil union with Janet Jenkins. They argued that Miss Jenkins never had formally adopted Isabella, now 3.

A Vermont judge, they said, sought to make a custodial judgment without determining parentage.

The Virginia Court of Appeals, they said, should “look to Vermont law to determine if Vermont exercised proper jurisdiction,” argued Rena Lindevaldsen, representing Miss Miller.

Mathew D. Staver of the Liberty Counsel said, “The commonwealth of Virginia has the right to define its own marriage policy. In Virginia, marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

The judges heard Miss Jenkins’ appeal of a lower court decision that concluded Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act barred any recognition of Vermont’s civil union law. The court did not issue a finding.

The dispute dates to 2000, when the two women traveled from Virginia to Vermont for a civil union. Miss Miller later gave birth to Isabella, and the family then moved back to Vermont, where the women lived for about one year before separating.

Miss Miller, who since embraced Christianity and has renounced her homosexuality, returned to Virginia and denied her former partner visitation rights.

The case has become a tug of war between courts in Vermont, where a judge has determined that Virginia had no jurisdiction over the case, and a court in Virginia’s Frederick County, where a judge granted Miss Miller full custody of Isabella.

Yesterday’s arguments came one week after the Vermont Supreme Court heard arguments in the dispute.

If the two states cannot resolve the conflict, the case could be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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