BURLINGTON, Vermont, June 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The infamous custody battle between a woman and her former same-sex partner is back in the news.
Liberty Counsel responded in federal court this week to a lawsuit involving the Southern Poverty Law Center and Jenkins v. Miller, et al, the first U.S. case based upon opposing same-sex civil union laws from two different states, according the Christian legal non-profit.
The legal group defended the child’s mother, Lisa Miller, after she walked away from the lesbian relationship and sought to keep her daughter safe from her former partner’s alleged abuse, eventually leaving the country to do so. Liberty Counsel represented Miller from late 2004 until just before she disappeared in September 2009. Miller and her daughter reportedly remain in hiding.
In 2012, Miller’s lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, filed a civil complaint in a Vermont federal court, claiming the defendants took part in helping Miller flee.
That lawsuit did not initially name Liberty Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen — who had worked on the case with Liberty Counsel — or its chairman, Mat Staver. Liberty Counsel had advised the court that it lost contact with Miller before she disappeared and requested to withdraw from the case, but the request was denied. The request was later carried out in 2010.
Late last year, however, Jenkins amended her suit to include Liberty Counsel, Lindevaldsen and Staver.
It was then that the Southern Poverty Law Center joined the suit as the lead counsel for Jenkins. The radical leftist group’s so-called “Hate List” targets Christian, family and pro-life groups, and prompted the attempted mass murder in 2012 at the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington D.C.
The Southern Poverty Law Center had placed Liberty Counsel on its “Hate List” in 2015 for the legal group’s defense of Kim Davis, the Christian clerk in Kentucky who went to jail for declining to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples.
“The SPLC's motivation for joining this suit is to publicize their dangerous agenda,” Staver said in a statement. “Ultimately, they want to destroy us. But that will not happen. The truth, a word the SPLC does not like, shall prevail.”
Liberty Counsel responded June 5 by filing a Memorandum of Law that requests dismissal of Jenkins’ claims against the legal non-profit, Staver and Lindevaldsen. A second Motion and Memorandum of Law raises Vermont's anti-SLAPP statute, which protects free speech.
“The lawsuit by Janet Jenkins, with the backing of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is designed solely to harass and destroy,” Staver stated.
“In the nearly eight years since Lisa Miller disappeared, and with the intense investigation conducted on this case by the federal government and Janet Jenkins, there is not one shred of evidence that points to Liberty Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen or me,” he continued. “But the facts and the law are irrelevant to Janet Jenkins and the SPLC.”
Miller and Jenkins had entered into a Vermont same-sex civil union while living in Virginia. During their time there, Miller gave birth to her daughter, Isabella, in 2002. The couple then lived for a short time in Vermont before Miller left the lesbian relationship and returned to Christianity.
A Vermont state court judge granted Jenkins visitation of Isabella, despite Jenkins being neither her biological nor adoptive parent, and even though there was no precedent in Vermont recognizing such parental rights.
The judge gave Jenkins visitation also despite the fact that Isabella knew very little of Jenkins, as she was a baby when the women split up.
The court had said Jenkins has parental rights because she was in a civil union with the Isabella’s mother at the time she was impregnated through artificial insemination.
The ruling was based upon the couple having made their partnership legal in Vermont, one of the few states that allowed such homosexual unions at the time. And it was handed down in spite of a constitutional amendment at the time denying same-sex “marriage” and civil unions in Virginia, where Miller lived with Isabella.
Miller obeyed the Vermont judge’s visitation orders, according to Liberty Counsel, but she raised concerns to him, which he never addressed.
Among the evidence produced by Miller was that Jenkins had read Heather Has Two Mommies to Isabella and told her she was her mommy.
Worse, Jenkins bathed naked with Isabella, greatly upsetting the young child. Miller had told the court that her daughter was having emotional problems connected to the visitation. Isabella started wetting her bed, clinging to Miller, and had even tried to harm herself.
Miller faced loss of custody of her daughter if she did not surrender her to Jenkins for unsupervised visits, and was eventually ordered to transfer permanent custody. Miller alleged that Jenkins had abused her as well when they were together.
As litigation and appeals were in progress in September 2009, Miller withdrew from communicating, Liberty Counsel said, and disappeared without warning.
A federal prosecutor from the Obama administration would later file criminal charges against two Mennonite ministers from a Mennonite community in Nicaragua, Ken and Timothy Miller — no relation to Lisa Miller — for helping Miller flee the country.
Another individual in northern Virginia was also charged, and all three have been convicted. Liberty Counsel said that criminal investigation is complete with at least one of the criminal defendants in the process of appeal.
Liberty Counsel has offered or given pro bono assistance in at least 20 states in relation to bathroom bills and religious liberty or LGBT issues. It is also representing Sandra Merritt, David Daleiden’s partner from the Center for Medical Progress, and has been involved in fighting ObamaCare, in particular for its abortion mandate.