Current Affairs

Lesbian “tug of war” custody case goes to Supreme Court

Tony Grew April 11, 2008
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A lesbian woman who is attempting to use a US state law banning gay marriage to exclude her former partner from custody of their daughter will have her case heard in the Virginia Supreme Court next week.

Janet Jenkins (formerly Miller-Jenkins) and Lisa Miller (formerly Miller-Jenkins) were joined in a civil union in Vermont and shortly after had a child.

After the women ended their relationship, Miller moved to Virginia with the women’s daughter, and asked a Vermont court to dissolve the couple’s civil union and sort out custody of the child.

When the Vermont court ordered visitation for Jenkins, Miller filed a new lawsuit in a Virginia court, using that state’s antigay marriage law to have herself declared the child’s sole legal parent.

The conflicting court orders, one from Vermont ordering regular visitation for Jenkins, and the other from a lower court in Virginia naming Miller as the sole parent, led to a decision by the Virginia Court of Appeals to uphold the Vermont court order granting Janet Jenkins visitation rights.

Lisa Miller is appealing the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The arguments on behalf of Jenkins are based on the US federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which makes it clear that court orders regarding custody and visitation enacted in one state must be enforced in other states as well.

Lambda Legal, a US organisation working for full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those with HIV, will present oral arguments on April 17th along with Arent Fox LLP and American Civil Liberties Union.

“It is both unfair and against the law to involve this child in a tug of war between two states,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal.

“The court of Vermont, which has jurisdiction over this matter, has granted visitation rights for Janet Jenkins, finding a continued relationship between Janet and her daughter to be in the child’s best interest.”

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