Homosexual Groups, ACLU Aid Lesbian Seeking Visitation

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:22pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Two homosexual advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday appealed the case of a lesbian woman who is being denied visitation with the daughter she had with her former partner.

Janet Miller-Jenkins is seeking to enforce a court order from a Vermont court that granted her regular visitation with the two-year-old daughter she and her former lover, Lisa Miller-Jenkins, had when they were joined in a Vermont civil union.

"My daughter has a right to have access to both of the parents she was born to. I'm in this for her -- she is all that matters," said Janet Miller-Jenkins.

After Janet's relationship with Lisa ended, Lisa moved to Virginia with their daughter and asked a Vermont court to dissolve their civil union and rule on child custody. When the court ordered visitation for Janet, Lisa filed a new lawsuit in Virginia court, using that state's law against same-sex "marriage" to have herself declared the child's sole legal parent.

The conflicting court orders -- one from Vermont ordering regular visitation for Janet, and the other from Virginia naming Lisa the sole parent -- led to Wednesday's appeal, which asks a state court to overturn the Virginia ruling.

The ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia and Lamba Legal have intervened on Janet Miller-Jenkins behalf by filing an appeal which cites the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and Virginia's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

The groups claim both laws make it clear that the Vermont court alone has jurisdiction in the case and cannot be interfered with. The federal kidnapping law requires that the Vermont order be enforced in Virginia, the groups contend.

The lower court in Virginia was "way off base" to ignore a "well thought-out and effective federal law designed to prevent this kind of jurisdiction-shopping by parents who are unhappy with their custody arrangements," said Greg Nevins, senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's southern regional office in Atlanta, Ga.

"The marriage law Lisa's attorneys are using doesn't apply here -- federal law governing custody arrangements trumps it all. The Vermont court had already begun considering this case and it alone has jurisdiction over it. Period," Nevins said.

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