Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stop misrepresenting the Lisa Miller/Janet Jenkins custody case

There has been a case going through the courts for the past couple of years regarding two lesbians and a child they agreed to raise.

Or rather, a lesbian, a "former" lesbian, and a child they agreed to raise.

This is how the religious right organization Liberty Counsel has described the case:

Activist judges in Vermont have declared that a legal stranger is a mommy to another woman's biological child. Now, a Vermont judge will decide whether to order the six year old little girl be stripped from the loving arms of the only mommy she has ever known - her biological mother, Lisa.

Lisa Miller left the homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian when Isabella was 17 months old. Janet Jenkins, who was Lisa's same-sex partner when Lisa gave birth to Isabella, then sought full custody of Isabella, claiming she was a parent even though she was not biologically related to Isabella and never sought to adopt her.

Not only did Vermont create new law from the bench to declare that Isabella has two mommies, but appellate courts in Virginia (the state where Isabella was born and has lived all but 13 months of her life) directed Virginia to fully recognize the Vermont orders giving Janet (who lives in Vermont) liberal unsupervised visitation. In doing so, the courts ignored Virginia's Marriage Amendment and marriage laws declaring all rights arising from same-sex relationships void and unenforceable.

However, like always with religious right groups, the Liberty Counsel omitted several things thereby distorting the case in pursuit of its own agenda.

In December 2008, Newsweek magazine featured a long article about the case. Here are some facts that the Liberty Counsel omitted:

Miller and Jenkins agreed to raise Isabella together.

Jenkins said the reason why she did not file for adoption was because she was told she didn't need to because they had the civil union (the two had married in a Vermont civil union before Isabella was born).

When the two broke up, Miller agreed to allow Jenkins to have visitation rights. Jenkins even paid child support. Miller allegedly began keeping Isabella away from Jenkins. Even now, she refuses to allow her to have unsupervised time with Isabella even though she has been ordered to.

The entire controversy is solely because Miller will not allow Jenkins to have unsupervised time with Isabella. Jenkins mainly won her case due to the Federal Kidnapping Prevention Law.

Miller has claimed she witnessed Isabella engage in disturbing behavior after vists with Jenkins. The claims were investigated by Virginia's Child Protective Services and were deemed "unfounded."

I hope that in the long run, things work out for little Isabella.

But in all honesty, how the Liberty Counsel is framing this case is extremely dishonest. These women agreed to raise the child together. And after they split up, they agreed on visitation, with Jenkins paying child support.

It seems that Miller decided that she didn't like what is going on and took it upon herself to void whatever agreement she and Jenkins had. My opinion is that Jenkins has a right to a say in the raising of her daughter.

The Liberty Counsel does no one justice in the way it attempts tug at emotions with inaccurate connotations of a crying child being ripped from the arms of her mother.

It's a shame that this "Christian group" feels the need to stoop so low. In a case where there should be no villains, the Liberty Counsel is doing its best to fill that role.


nathanfriendly said...

How is Isabella Jenkins daughter anymore than she is my daughter? One woman, Lisa Miller, is the biological mother and the other is not even distantly related, hence it is not the same as when, say a Father, after a divorce, has the right to see his children who live with their mother because he has the same shared biological relation. The analogy simply doesn't hold in this case.
Nathan Friend

BlackTsunami said...

Apparently the court disagrees with you, nathan.

Lisa and Janet decided to raise little Isabella together. And when they broke up, Lisa agreed to giving Jaent visitation rights and she had no problems with Janet paying child support.

I think both of these things has some standing in the courts.

Anonymous said...

This situation is analogous to a situation where a man marries a woman with a child, they agree to raise the child together, and then when they divorce the woman changes her mind. The step-dad, relying on the promises of the mom, and is betrayed when the mom deprives him of HIS child - the child that he has come to love as his own, and who will bear the pain of losing that child.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, no I think YOU are omitting several important issues, one of which is the fact that Lisa Miller said from the very beginning that the reason she and Jenkins split up was because Jenkins was abusive. That alone is good reason to not want her to have unsupervised time with a child. Additionally, she tried to claim that Lisa Miller was an "unfit" mother because of her faith. Talk about squelching a person's right to freedom of religion!

Anonymous said...

Really?... No, I don't think so. Clearly, this has been biased against Miller. I can only imagine if the Christian lady were the one saying the biological mother were an "unfit mother" because of her religious beliefs, as Jenkins accused Miller of repeatedly (and which was clearly proven otherwise in the courts). There would be an uproar!
I wouldn't want my daughter around Jenkins either, especially if she came back from a visit speaking of suicide, as little Isabella did after a visit with Jenkins.
On the other hand, Miller should give back the money that Jenkins gave her as child support.
One thing is for certain - Miller WILL win her own biological daughter back, as she should.

BlackTsunami said...


In recent developments, the judge has ruled for Janet Jenkins, period. Everything you are claiming is basic ballast. I think the judge wouldn't have ruled the way he did if anything you claimed had a shred of credibility. I think the situation should not have gotten as far as it did and maybe it wouldn't have if the Liberty Counsel had not exploited it as a fundraising tool.

My prayers is that this issue will be resolved for the betterment of little Isabella. But as for now, the judge has ruled in favor of Janet Jenkins.

Kiki said...

Apparently Janet Jenkins attempted naked bathing with the child Isabella. As liberal as I am...Isabella was not of legal age to decide to participate...that is just not acceptable. Therefore Jenkins should have supervised visitation only!
Full custody to Jenkins isn't fair to the child, since she is more attached to her biological mother.
Lisa Miller might be misguided but she clearly was acting in the interests of her child.
Furthermore, I'd like to see reports where anyone questioned the child to learn with whom SHE wanted to live.

BlackTsunami said...

All charges that claimed Jenkins had abused little Isabella were investigated and were found to be inaccurate, including the one you just mentioned.

Full custody to Jenkins is fair and is also the result of Miller not abiding by court ordered visitation. If Miller had followed court orders in the first place, this situation would not have played out the way it did.

And I really question the idea that Miller is acting in the best interest of little Isabella by placing her in hiding. Going on the run is not good for any child.

Finally, I am unaware of any reports that you speak of. If they exist, they probably won't be made public so as to protect Isabella.

Jason D said...

"How is Isabella Jenkins daughter anymore than she is my daughter?"

Oh, I'm sorry, did you meet, date, fall in love with and enter a civil union with Lisa Miller? Did you go to the time and trouble of artificially conceiving a child with Lisa Miller?

If so, then yes, you'd have a point.

But since you haven't, you don't.

Just another way in which anti-gay bigots like to pretend that our relationships don't exist, and if they do exist, they're not real anyway.

Miller may want to pretend she's not now nor ever been a lesbian, but she doesn't get to sweep her commitments and responsibilities under the rug as well.

The relationship may be over, but that doesn't mean Janet's status as Isabella's parent suddenly disappears in thin air.

aimgrund said...

Great article BlackTsunami. I have to say that I am a little disturb by some of the anonymous posters.

I don't remember hearing the religious right getting all upset when a court ordered a father to continue paying child support for his 16 year old daughter when he discovered (three years after his divorce) that the daughter wasn't his to begin with.

I don't remember hearing people getting all upset when, after a father (or mother) kidnaps a child and takes it across state lines, a judge rules that full custody be given to the other parent.

The simple matter is that the judgeprobably would have given joint custody or some version of that if Miller (who had no problem taking Jenkin's money) hadn't left the state and now has gone into finding running from police and the court.

Of the two parents, Miller is the one who is dangerous for the child and ruining Isabella's life.

Erin said...

"Janet Jenkins, who was Lisa's same-sex partner when Lisa gave birth to Isabella, then sought full custody of Isabella, claiming she was a parent even though she was not biologically related to Isabella and never sought to adopt her." -Nice run-on sentence fragment. Finish your thought or have someone proofread! Wow, these anti-gay activists are so brilliant. FYI: The allegations against Jenkins haven't been proven. They could have been totally made up. If they're true, then I'll have to say I agree Miller should have custody. However, denying that Jenkins was a parent-figure to the child is ridiculous and hateful, and it's just another way for the religious right to pretend gay couples don't have meaningful relationships, and can't comprise a real family.

Tanner said...

Well Nathan how out this, a man and a woman marry and unfortunately is infertile. So his wife goes gets an anonymous donor from the sperm bank and becomes pregnant. So would that father not have the right to see the child because he "is not even distantly related".

On a different note to Black Tsunami, I want to say thanks a lot I'm doing a paper for college on gay adoption and your blog has helped me a lot

Cindy Murphy said...

It never ceases to amaze me how people will blindly believe any unfounded accusation that fits their prejudices. You'd almost think that divorcing parents making unfounded claims of child abuse to help them win custody wasn't common. When my brother and his wife were going through divorce, she made ridiculous unfounded claims about why she was afraid to let their little boy visit his daddy too. Oddly enough they are now happily remarried.

Do these "anonymous" people even stop for a moment to use their brains. If Lisa's current claims about the supposedly abusive relationship she was in were true, why was she happy enough to initially agree to unsupervised visits before she got brainwashed by the blind leading the blind known as fundamentalist Christianity?

2+2 still equals 4 people...

I can't seem to find any news since January on this case. Does anybody know if they've tracked down the kidnapping parent or if there is at least a warrant out for her arrest?