Ruling on a technicality, the Virginia Supreme Court on June 6 rejected “ex-gay” activist and veritable fugitive Lisa Miller’s use of the state as a shelter from Vermont family court rulings. The court upheld an appellate ruling which recognized Vermont’s jurisdiction and implicitly acknowledged ex-partner Janet Jenkins visitation rights with daughter Isabella, whom they jointly agreed to conceive.
The dispute began in 2003, when Miller — dissatisfied with her civil union to Jenkins — took Isabella and fled to Virginia. She acknowledged Vermont’s jurisdiction by dissolving the civil union there and seeking child support. But Miller did not count on Vermont recognizing Jenkins’ visitation rights.
By 2004, Miller was claiming to be “ex-gay” and violating Jenkins’ visitation rights. (To this day, Miller has deceived the public and capitalized upon religious-right support by claiming to be ex-gay while declining to state whether she has any attraction to men whatsoever.)
In exchange for legal representation of questionable competence, Miller gave exploitation rights over Isabella to the religious-rightist Liberty Counsel, which has sought to use Miller’s flight from justice to undermine both Vermont family law and the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act which protects children from parents who cross state lines to evade custody rulings.
A Virginia Court of Appeals ruling (PDF) eventually reversed a lower Virginia court’s violation of Vermont and federal law. Miller and the Liberty Counsel then waited too long to appeal and missed a deadline. Miller continued to violate Vermont visitation orders. When Jenkins sought to file a final Vermont court order for enforcement in the Virginia courts, the Liberty Counsel saw an opportunity for a fresh round of litigation. In the view of New York Law School professor Arthur S. Leonard, the Virginia Supreme Court was not fooled by the Liberty Counsel’s second round of litigation; it was clearly the same old dispute being reopened ad nauseum.
According to The Rutland Herald:
Miller’s attorney, Mathew Staver, said his client “has not lost her courage or her resolve” and will pursue other legal options. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the law school at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, said he hopes to raise the issue of Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions in a new proceeding.
Liberty Counsel’s ongoing defense of ex-gay kidnapping underlines a religious-right commitment to fundamentalist lawlessness and subversion of family values.
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