A Virginian woman has failed in her bid to deny a former lesbian partner visitation rights with a child she conceived during their now-ended relationship, after a Virginia appeals court ruling, the International Herald Tribune reported.
The Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled Tuesday that a previous court had erred in overriding a Vermont court decision granting Lisa Miller‘s former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, visitation rights with Miller‘s daughter Isabella. The case was sent back to the Vermont court.
"We hold that the trial court erred in failing to recognize that the PKPA [Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act] barred its exercise of jurisdiction," the ruling said. "Accordingly we vacate the orders of the trial court and remand this case with instruction to grant full faith and credit to the custody and visitation orders of the Vermont court."
Miller and Jenkins, both from Virginia, registered a civil union in Vermont in 2001, after Vermont passed legislation in 2000 recognizing same-sex civil unions. The two then returned to Virginia, where Miller underwent artificial insemination and gave birth to Isabella.
The two women later moved to Vermont, where their relationship ended a little more then one year later. Miller says she no longer considers herself to be a lesbian, the Times Argus reported earlier today. A Vermont court granted Jenkins visitation rights with Miller's daughter, now four.
Miller fled to Virginia and sought sole custody rights for Isabella in a state court. Virginia does not grant legal status to same-sex couples – voters just passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex "marriage" in the November election.
The court ruled in Miller's favor and denied Jenkins access to Isabella. Judge John R. Prosser said Miller was Isabella's sole parent. Jenkins's attorney Greg Nevins, with Lambda Legal, filed an appeal on the grounds that the case had already been decided by the Vermont court.
In Tuesday's ruling the Virginia court specified that the decision did not address whether or not Virginia would recognize same-sex unions from other states, and said the decision was arrived at solely on the basis of custody rights.
"By so holding, we do not address whether Virginia law recognizes or endorses same-sex unions entered into in another state or jurisdiction," the court wrote in its decision.
"The only question before us is whether… Virginia can deny full faith and credit to the orders of the Vermont court. It cannot."
Mathew Staver, Miller's attorney, said he will ask the Virginia Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court to hear the case, if necessary.
"Our client is certainly not giving up, is in this for the long haul and, since her daughter is at stake, is prepared to take this as far as she has to," Staver said. The child, now four, has not had seen Jenkins for two years, since June 2004.