Virginia Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Custody Case Involving Lesbian Mother
(Richmond, Virginia, April 17, 2008) — At oral arguments today at the Supreme Court of Virginia, Arent Fox LLP, Lambda Legal, and ACLU-VA, will defend a lesbian mother and her relationship with her daughter against her ex-partner who claims that she is the sole parent after the dissolution of the couple's civil 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."
Janet Jenkins (formerly Miller-Jenkins) and Lisa Miller (formerly Miller-Jenkins) were joined in a civil union in Vermont and shortly thereafter 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.
"This litigation has been on going for over four years now. The Vermont Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of Virginia both agree that my daughter has the right to be raised by the two parents she was born to regardless of what state she lives in," said Janet Jenkins. "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."
The arguments on behalf of Jenkins are based on the 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.
Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta is handling the case for Lambda Legal along with co-counsel Rebecca Glendberg of the ACLU of Virginia. Joseph Price of the law firm Arent Fox LLP argued the case on behalf of Jenkins.
The case is Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins.
Contact: Tika Milan 212-809-8585 ext. 223; [email protected]
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.