Dana Rudolph

It's Not Over Yet: "Protect Isabella Coalition" Forms to Keep Girl from Lesbian Mom

Filed By Dana Rudolph | April 08, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Janet Jenkins, lisa miller, Vermont, Virginia

In this week of euphoria over the marriage victories, let's not forget we still have a long way to go. Today, "a coalition of concerned Virginia citizens" has formed the "Protect Isabella Coalition" to "create awareness of what it labels 'judicial tyranny' in the child custody/visitation case involving Miller, Isabella's biological mother, and Vermonter Janet Jenkins, her lesbian former partner."

(I'm not going to boost their search ranking by giving them a direct link. If you like, cut and paste the following: http://www.protectisabella.com/)

Those of you who have been following the case (see here and here) know that Miller and Jenkins created their family together. When they split, Miller said she was no longer a lesbian, enlisted the help of the far-right Liberty Counsel (think of them as the anti-Lambda Legal), and tried to claim sole custody, saying that Jenkin's lesbian lifestyle was harmful to their daughter. The case has bounced between the jurisdictions of Vermont and Virginia, but in December, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, letting stand a ruling that Virginia must enforce a Vermont court order awarding child-visitation rights to Jenkins.

Most recently, a Vermont Family Court judge rejected a new bid by Miller to deny visitation rights to Jenkins, and reminded Miller that she risks losing custody if she continues to violate court orders. At the same time, he turned down a request from Jenkins that she be given primary custody, and allowed her five weeks of custody in the summer.

The Protect Isabella site is a compilation of the usual unsupported claims about how children fare better with a mother and a father, and statements like "Six-year-old Isabella Miller did not arrive in the world in 'the usual way.' Her 'dad' is an anonymous sperm donor. The only father she really has known is her Heavenly Father, thanks to the love and godly teaching of her real (biological) mother and role model, Lisa Miller." Nothing wrong with being religious, of course, but let's keep the religious arguments out of our legal ones.

Given the case's Vermont connection, launching the site the day after the Vermont decision seems more than coincidental. Does this mean the right is running scared? We'll see. I don't think we should underestimate them, however. For Isabella's sake, I hope they stop using this case to promote their cause. The custody decision has been made, appealed, and upheld. Yes, going between two households is tough, as it is for any child of divorce or separation. Children deal with it, however, and by and large do just fine. Let's let the girl get on with her life, sharing it with both of her moms.

(Thanks to Paige Schilt for alerting me to the news.)

The full press release from the Protect Isabella Coalition is below:

Virginia Citizens Launch Protect Isabella Coalition
Group Asking Legislators To Uphold Virginia's Marriage Laws

LYNCHBURG, Va. - A coalition of concerned Virginia citizens has formed in support of Lisa Miller and her 6-year-old daughter, Isabella.

Called the Protect Isabella Coalition, the grassroots effort aims to create awareness of what it labels "judicial tyranny" in the child custody/visitation case involving Miller, Isabella's biological mother, and Vermonter Janet Jenkins, her lesbian former partner. The group has a Web site - www.ProtectIsabella.com - and also has produced television and radio public awareness ads.

Jenkins and Miller were joined in a civil union during a trip to Vermont in December 2000. Afterward, they returned to Northern Virginia to live. Miller was artificially inseminated in a Virginia fertility clinic the following year, and gave birth to Isabella in April 2002.

The couple lived in Vermont for just over a year before Miller filed to dissolve the civil union. Renouncing homosexuality and embracing Christianity, Miller relocated with Isabella back to Virginia.

A Vermont judge ruled in 2003 that Jenkins is also Isabella's "mother," allowing her liberal visitations, although she is unrelated and never adopted the child. Her requests for full custody have been denied.

Deeming Jenkins' open lesbian lifestyle a harmful environment for her daughter, Miller began denying her visits with Isabella following a 2004 ruling by a Virginia circuit court judge that Miller was Isabella's sole
parent.

Subsequent Virginia appellate court and Virginia Supreme Court rulings have held that Vermont's visitation order must be recognized and registered because of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. This law, both courts said, supercedes Virginia's Marriage Amendment and Marriage Affirmation Act, as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Liberty Counsel attorneys representing Lisa Miller continue to file appeals aimed at protecting Isabella from the emotionally traumatizing experiences of forced visits with a lesbian women she barely knows. The latest appeal explains that the "Full Faith and Credit" obligation does not require Virginia to enforce the Vermont order.

"The road toward justice has taken a long and winding path, but we believe the courts are getting closer to addressing the core issues in this case," said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law. "The people of Virginia have plainly spoken in favor of traditional marriage and have rejected same-sex unions. The Virginia courts must now uphold the Constitution."

The Protect Isabella Coalition is asking fellow Virginians to contact their state delegates and senators and ask them to uphold the state's marriage laws, rein in judicial tyranny and stand up for Isabella.

For more information, visit www.ProtectIsabella.com.

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In the end, I have to wonder if the theocrats and the LGBT's can really exist in the same country. I suppose that we could if the government made is overtly and patently clear that this was a secular nation.

But they won't, because God is in the mix these days.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Dana. I had missed it. This is an attempt to sway popular opinion for sure, but no amount of organizing is going to change the reality that as a legal matter this case was and is all about which court -- Vermont or Virginia -- has the jurisdiction to issue custody orders about Isabella. The final word on that is in, and it's Vermont. Virginia legislators can't do anything about it because custody jurisdiction is a matter of federal law as well as state law. It's an outrage that Lisa and Liberty Counsel are willing to use the child in this way when they have no credible argument on their sire.

"The latest appeal explains that the "Full Faith and Credit" obligation does not require Virginia to enforce the Vermont order."

I'm sorry but that sounds like if it's appealed on that basis, they're opening an even bigger can of worms that might effect both heterosexual and homosexual couples alike.

As a transgender person who lives in a different state from their children (I in Florida, my children with their father in Connecticut) I would be floored if I was told I could no longer see my children because either of our states didn't have to honor our court ordered custody agreement.

One state can't override the court orders of another state - it would be ludicrous to think that.

No one's more homophobic than an "ex-gay." This is ridiculous, especially how they're cynically using that child to stir up homophobia.