- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — The Virginia Supreme Court heard conflicting views yesterday on whether the state’s ban on gay marriages and civil unions essentially voids a Vermont court’s child-visitation order in a dispute between two former lesbian partners.

The justices are reviewing a Virginia Court of Appeals ruling that Vermont has sole jurisdiction in the visitation battle between Lisa Miller of Winchester, Va., and Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven, Vt.

Miss Miller’s attorney, Mathew D. Staver, argued that the appeals court improperly ignored a Virginia statute and a constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex unions and the recognition of such arrangements from other states.

“A Vermont same-sex civil union is invisible under the laws of this commonwealth,” Mr. Staver said.

Joseph R. Price, an attorney for Miss Jenkins, countered that the recognition of civil unions is not the issue. He said the appeals court and courts in Vermont correctly ruled that the case is governed by the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), which says custody orders of one state must be enforced in other states.

“If the court interpreted the law as Lisa wants, it would encourage a number of absurd results,” Mr. Price said, including the losers of custody cases “taking children and running to other states looking for a different result. That’s exactly what the PKPA sought to avoid.”

Miss Miller and Miss Jenkins lived in Virginia but went to Vermont to obtain a civil union in 2000. Two years later, Miss Miller gave birth to a daughter conceived through artificial conception. After the three moved to Vermont, the couple split and Miss Miller asked that state’s courts to dissolve the civil union and sort out visitation.

Miss Miller renounced her homosexuality and moved back to Virginia with her daughter, Isabella, after a Vermont court awarded visitation rights to Miss Jenkins. On the day Virginia’s gay marriage ban took effect, Miss Miller asked a Frederick County, Va., judge to nullify the visitation order. The judge agreed, ruling that Miss Miller alone had parental rights.

The appeals court reversed the ruling, and Miss Miller appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The two sides did little to conceal their disdain for each other in remarks to reporters after the hearing. Mr. Price suggested that the conservative Liberty Counsel is trying to use the case to bolster its fundraising efforts. Mr. Staver said Miss Jenkins’ supporters are trying to make 6-year-old Isabella Miller “a political trophy of a homosexual agenda.”

Miss Miller, who attended the hearing, said at a news conference afterward that the battle has been traumatic for Isabella.

“There’s already been damage,” Miss Miller said. “She’s not the same child she was a year ago.”

Leaning on the podium from which Miss Miller spoke was a poster with a photo of the child in front of a Christmas tree, and the message: “Rescue hostage Isabella from Vermont court.”

Miss Miller said her former partner doesn’t like the fact that Isabella is being raised in a Christian environment.

Miss Jenkins did not attend the hearing but said through Lambda Legal, a gay-rights organization: “I love and adore my daughter and I am going to honor my commitment to be a parent. That is what I have been trying to do all these years and I hope very much that the Virginia Supreme Court will allow me to continue to do that.”

A decision is expected in June.

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