Parental Rights

Virginia makes a good decision regarding lesbian custody dispute

by Yusef Najafi
Published on June 12, 2008, 12:00am | Comments

Equal rights advocates in Virginia praised the Virginia Supreme Court's Friday, June 6, decision securing a non-biological mother's visitation rights to her 6-year-old daughter.

The decision involves former partners Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller. According to an Equality Virginia press release, the decision ''affirms that federal and state laws governing child custody disputes apply equally to GLBT families.''

The two women entered a Vermont civil union in 2000, and Miller gave birth to a girl, Isabella, in Virginia in April 2002. The couple separated in 2003 with Miller claiming she was no longer a lesbian, and their civil union was dissolved. Despite Miller's wishes, a Vermont court granted Jenkins visitation rights.

With funding from the Liberty Counsel, a not-for-profit right-wing legal firm, Miller, who claimed to be ''ex-gay,'' brought the case to Virginia courts in an effort to void the couple's legal relationship and nullify any visitation order. Miller's attorneys invoked Virginia's Defense of Marriage Act, which holds that the commonwealth need not abide by any other state's laws when dealing with same-sex marriage.

Miller was granted sole custody of Isabella by the Frederick County, Va., Circuit Court, denying Jenkins any visitation rights. The Virginia Court of Appeals reversed that decision in 2006.

The Virginia Supreme Court's affirmed the appeals court ruling.

''This commonsense decision means that the child involved in the dispute will have the love and support of both her parents as she grows up,'' said Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia.