Court Passes On Same-Sex Fight Over Child

civil union, gay couple, child custody, SCOTUS CBS/AP

The Supreme Court has refused to intercede in a Virginia dispute between two former lesbian lovers over visitation rights involving a 4-year-old child.

The child's biological mother, Lisa Miller, had asked the justices to take the case because Vermont courts have ordered Miller to allow her former lover, Janet Jenkins, to see the child one week each month.

Miller, who says she has renounced her lesbianism and sought legal custody of a child born during her civil union with another woman, cites the Defense of Marriage Act in her suit seeking to prevent Jenkins from obtaining visitation rights.

In 2000, the two women entered into a civil union in Vermont, and they decided Lisa would use artificial insemination with an anonymous donor to have a child. Their daughter was born in Virginia in 2002 and the two women moved to Vermont, where they lived for a year before separating.

Miller renounced her homosexuality, returned to Virginia and denied Jenkins' demands for visitation rights.

Vermont courts have ordered Miller to allow Jenkins to see the child one week a month.

Relying heavily on the rulings by Vermont courts, the Virginia Court of Appeals said Miller is required to comply with visitation orders of the Vermont courts under the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. That law was passed in 1980 as a means to create national standards with regard to jurisdiction over child custody disputes.

Miller says the act conflicts with a more recent federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, on same-sex marriage. That law says no state shall be required to abide by a law of any other state with respect to a same-sex marriage.

In asking the justices to take the case, Miller's lawyers said state courts in Vermont and elsewhere have "eviscerated the protections afforded each state" under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Jenkins' lawyers said Vermont courts were the first to take jurisdiction of the case and that Miller's response was to "run to a Virginia court" seeking a result more to her liking.

The case is Lisa Miller-Jenkins v. Janet Miller-Jenkins, 06-1110.
  • Christine Lagorio

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