- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

RICHMOND | A Virginia woman is continuing her legal effort to deny child-visitation rights to her former lesbian partner.

In a brief filed Tuesday with the Virginia Court of Appeals, Lisa Miller’s attorneys argue that state law bars the enforcement of a Vermont court order awarding Janet Jenkins visitation rights for 6-year-old Isabella.

Miss Miller’s lawyer, Mathew Staver, said federal law can recognize the order but cannot force Virginia to enforce it.

Mr. Staver, dean of the law school at the conservative Christian-centered Liberty University, also said an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that took effect in 2007 bars same-sex marriage and enforcement of same-sex civil unions. That is an issue he said Miss Miller’s litigation had not previously introduced.

Virginia and Vermont courts have ruled in Miss Jenkins’ favor numerous times since she started fighting for visitation rights upon the dissolution of the civil union she and Miss Miller obtained in Vermont in 2000. The Supreme Court has declined to hear Miss Miller’s appeals.

Miss Jenkins’ lawyer, Rebecca K. Glenberg, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said Tuesday that the appeal “has nothing new” and Miss Miller cannot introduce Virginia’s marriage amendment after failing to do so previously. She also said that previous court rulings have determined that under federal law, Virginia courts must enforce the Vermont’s court orders in this case.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in June that a federal law aimed at preventing parents from crossing state lines to evade custody rulings requires Virginia courts to enforce Vermont’s order. The Vermont Supreme Court also ruled in Miss Jenkins’ favor in 2006.

The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled twice for Miss Jenkins: Miss Miller’s lawyers missed a deadline for appealing the first ruling so they filed a second appeal on different grounds. The appellate court determined the latter case failed to raise new issues, and the Virginia Supreme Court, the state’s highest court, agreed.

In January, a Vermont judge denied Miss Miller’s most recent attempt in that state to deny visitation rights to Miss Jenkins. Family Court Judge William Cohen also said Miss Miller risked losing custody of her daughter if she continues to violate court orders.

Judge Cohen also rejected Miss Jenkins’ effort to get primary custody of Isabella, but ordered that she get five weeks’ custody in the summer.

Miss Miller gave birth to Isabella in April 2002, but later renounced homosexuality and moved back to the Winchester area with the child after the couple split. National gay-rights and conservative Christian groups continue to monitor the protracted legal battle.

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