By Hilary White
RICHMOND, Virginia, October 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Marriage advocates and the attorneys general of two states are joining forces to prevent an attempt to force one state to comply with the same-sex civil union laws of another. Two conflicting court cases could see the same-sex civil partnership laws of Vermont enforced in Virginia, a state that does not recognize such arrangements.
A mother currently living in Virginia left the lesbian lifestyle and the relationship she was in with another woman in Vermont. Now the other woman in the relationship is attempting to use the courts to force the state of Virginia, a state with constitutional amendment defining traditional, natural marriage, to grant her “parental” visitation rights.
Traditional marriage advocates are calling the case the first of its kind in the US where the laws of one state are directly pitted in a lawsuit against the same-sex partnership laws of another.
Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller were formally registered under that state’s same-sex civil partnership laws in Vermont. While in the relationship, Lisa Miller gave birth to a daughter, identified in court documents as IMJ, conceived by artificial insemination. The court files dissolving the civil union named IMJ as “the biological or adoptive” child of the “civil union.”
Miller has since left the relationship and the lesbian lifestyle after converting to Christianity and has moved with her daughter to Virginia, a state with no recognition whatever of same-sex unions and that has a constitutional amendment upholding the definition of natural marriage.
In June 2004, the Vermont court awarded Jenkins “on a temporary basis, parent-child contact” with IMJ. The following July, after Virginia passed its Marriage Affirmation Act confirming natural marriage as the legal definition, Miller successfully petitioned the Virginia court to award her sole custody of IMJ, who is now five years old, and asked the court to declare Jenkins’ claims to parental rights to be “nugatory, void, illegal and/or unenforceable.”
In response on July 19, 2004, the Vermont court declared that it continued to have jurisdiction over the case, ruling that it is “unaware of any proceeding available in a state that does not recognize a civil union” and insisted that its temporary order for Jenkins’ visitation rights be followed in Miller’s new home in Virginia. The Vermont court later held Miller in contempt for refusing to comply with the visitation ruling. In an appeal by Miller, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the original decision and awarded Janet Jenkins parental rights over Lisa’s biological child.
Miller’s ongoing case is being pursued in the Virginia Supreme Court, represented by the Liberty Counsel, a public interest advocacy group. The situation in which one state’s court has demanded that another state recognize a homosexual domestic arrangement that has no legal reality in another state, is unique, says Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law.
Staver said, “One state should not be allowed to write the marriage policy of another state and export same-sex unions beyond its state borders. Regarding same-sex civil unions, what happens in Vermont must stay in Vermont.” If the Virginia Supreme Court decision clashes with the Vermont Supreme Court, the case will go directly to the United States Supreme Court.
A standard tactic of the homosexual activist movement has been to urge the use of such cases to bring about changes of laws in other jurisdictions. When Canada passed its legislation creating “gay marriage”, one group recommended gay partners get “married” in Canada and then use the courts in the US to force legal recognition of the arrangement.
The Liberty Counsel is arguing that Virginia has the right to define its own marriage policy, and a Vermont same-sex civil union “becomes invisible” at the border of Virginia. The Virginia attorney general’s amicus brief in the case asks the Virginia Supreme Court to rule that the same-sex civil union laws of Vermont are void in Virginia. The Virginia brief is supported by another from the attorney general of Michigan, a state that also has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
By Hilary White