Virginia Supreme Court to Weigh in on Lesbian Couple's Custody Battle

By Melanie Hunter-Omar | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - The Virginia Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday in a case involving a lesbian couple fighting over who gets full custody of a five-year-old girl.

Janet Jenkins, former partner of Lisa Miller, is suing for custody of Miller's biological daughter even though Jenkins is not an adoptive or biological parent.

Jenkins and Miller entered into a Vermont civil union in 2000 while living in Virginia. Miller got pregnant through artificial insemination from an anonymous donor and gave birth to her daughter in Virginia. The relationship eventually ended.

"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, which will present oral arguments in the case.

"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," Nevins added.

Both Virginia and Vermont courts have weighed in on the case. The Vermont Supreme Court granted parental rights and frequent visitation to Jenkins, who lives in Vermont. If the Virginia Supreme Court's decision goes against the Vermont Supreme Court's ruling, the case will automatically be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case hinges on Virginia's Marriage Affirmation Act and the state's marriage amendment, both of which define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Virginia does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act will also be used, and it's designed to protect one state from being forced to recognize another state's same-sex union.

"This case is of paramount national importance. Not only is a little girl's spiritual, emotional and physical well-being at stake, the Virginia Supreme Court will essentially be signaling whether states like Vermont and Massachusetts get to radically redefine marriage and family for the rest of the country," Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for Concerned Women for America, said in a statement.

"We're asking for people to join us in praying that the Virginia Supreme Court will protect little Isabella, her mother Lisa and the bedrock institutions of legitimate marriage and family," CWA of Virginia State Director Janet Robey said in a statement.

"We're also asking for people to join in praying, as little Isabella has requested, 'that Janet Jenkins would ask Jesus into her heart,' and then with God's help, deliverance from homosexuality is possible," Robey added.

CWA is holding a prayer vigil at 8 am Thursday in Richmond, Va., followed by a press conference at 10 am.

See Earlier Story:
Homosexual Groups, ACLU Aid Lesbian Seeking Visitation (Dec. 8, 2004)

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