- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Christian ministry leader is expected to testify Monday in a federal court in Vermont about the parental kidnapping of a little girl who was born to two women who were once in a Vermont civil union.

Timothy David Miller, who is associated with the Christian Aid Ministries of Ohio, has been ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Burlington to answer questions in the case of Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who represent Janet Jenkins.

Ms. Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vt., and Lisa Miller, formerly of Forest, Va., have been in a seven-year custody battle over their daughter, Isabella, who was born in 2002 when the two women were in a Vermont civil union.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ms. Miller, who was last seen with her daughter in Nicaragua, according to an FBI complaint filed in court this month.

Mr. Miller - whose ties to Ms. Miller are unknown - was arrested in Alexandria last week. Steve Barth, a public defender who is to represent him in Vermont, did not return calls for comment, according to the Associated Press.

The women’s custody battle, with its implications for parental rights and state laws on gay unions, has pitted Virginia and Vermont courts against each other since late 2003 and riveted the attention of gay-rights and traditional-values groups across the nation.

Ms. Miller vanished with Isabella in late 2009, even though she was court-ordered to relinquish the girl to Ms. Jenkins by Jan. 1, 2010. Ms. Jenkins sought a criminal investigation of Ms. Miller a few months later.

Ms. Jenkins said Friday that she was “grateful to everyone in law enforcement” for their efforts to track down Isabella, who turned 9 this month.

“I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well. I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon,” Ms. Jenkins said.

The criminal complaint filed in the federal court April 1 by FBI Special Agent Dana Kaegel details evidence about Mr. Miller and others’ efforts to help Ms. Miller flee the country with Isabella.

Mr. Miller, who is married with children and has a Crossville, Tenn., driver’s license, is associated with Christian Aid Ministries, which is based in Ohio and has a mission in Managua, Nicaragua, the complaint said.

Mr. Miller and others assisted Ms. Miller and Isabella to drive to Canada and then fly to Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua in September 2009, the complaint said.

It said Mr. Miller “provided a place of shelter,” which apparently was a beach house owned by a ministry friend. Ms. Miller was given the “code name” of “Sarah” and Isabella “Lydia.”

Efforts to reach Christian Aid Ministries have been unsuccessful. The complaint describes Christian Aid Ministries as an Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist groups ministry founded in 1981 to offer food, clothing, medicine, seeds, Bibles and other Christian literature to the world.

The complaint said it was unknown whether there was any biological relationship between Mr. Miller and Ms. Miller.

Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Miller obtained a Vermont civil union in 2000 and conceived Isabella through artificial insemination. Ms. Miller gave birth to Isabella in Virginia in 2002.

After the birth, they moved to Vermont, where they lived together until September 2003, when Ms. Miller and Isabella returned to Virginia. Ms. Miller filed to dissolve the civil union in November 2003.

The custody battle developed over the ensuing months, in part because Ms. Miller became a devout Christian and said she was no longer a lesbian and didn’t want Isabella to be raised in a homosexual home.

Ms. Miller’s attorneys have argued that because Ms. Miller is the biological mother and Isabella was born in Virginia, which is not required to recognize civil unions, she should have sole custody of the child.

However, courts in Vermont and Virginia have agreed that Ms. Jenkins is a legal parent to Isabella because of the civil union, and Ms. Jenkins is entitled to visitation.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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