Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in Lesbian Mom Custody Dispute: Lambda Legal Hails Victory
(Richmond, VA, May 8, 2007) —Today, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected an appeal in a highly watched lesbian parenting dispute. In November of last year, the Virginia Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia has no say in a custody dispute that began in Vermont between Janet Jenkins and her former partner Lisa Miller.
"This is a major mile stone in this case," said Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. "Lisa Miller's attempts to declare herself the sole parent to Isabella have failed, and it is now established that all courts recognize that Janet Jenkins is also a parent to Isabella. Janet is that much closer to being reunited with her daughter."
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 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 the sole parent – led to a decision from the Virginia Court of Appeals reversing the lower Virginia court therefore recognizing Janet's parental status. Today's ruling confirms that Virginia courts must respect the ruling from Vermont that Janet is a parent to Isabella.
Throughout the case, Jenkins' legal team argued that the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and Virginia's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act make it clear that the Vermont court alone has jurisdiction in the matter and that the state of Virginia cannot interfere with the existing order. Furthermore, the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) requires that the Vermont order be enforced in Virginia.
Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney, is Lambda Legal's attorney on the case. Nevins worked with Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, John Squires of the Equality Virginia Education Fund and lead attorney Joe Price of Arent Fox.Jenkins is represented in Vermont by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). The case is Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins.
Jackie Yodashkin 212-809-8585 ext. 229
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.