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Volume 35
Issue 18
 
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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal in Lesbian custody battle
U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal in Lesbian custody battle
Refusal good for Washington State legal precedent

by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear the appeal of an ex-Lesbian who had hoped to pit Vermont and Virginia's disparate laws on Gay relationships against each other.

The court refused to hear the appeal of Virginia resident Lisa Miller-Jenkins who sought to refuse compliance with a Vermont Supreme Court ruling granting her former civil union partner visitation with a child they had together.

The news is good for a legal precedent in our state, which recognizes the rights of "de facto parents." Washington State Supreme Court justices had ruled in a 2005 legal dispute to allow non-biological parents to argue they are entitled to the same parental rights as a biological parent after a couple separates. The nation's highest court had also refused to hear an appeal of the case.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins met and lived in Virginia before moving to Vermont where they obtained a civil union license in 2000. In 2002, they had a baby together but did not establish any legal rights, such as adoption or a parenting agreement, between Jenkins and the child. A year later, the couple split up and Miller, the biological mother, moved back to Virginia with the child. There, she filed legal actions, first in Vermont and then in Virginia to dissolve the civil union and secure custody of the child. She also sought child support from Jenkins.

But in July 2004, after Virginia enacted its new law prohibiting any recognition of same-sex relationships, Miller asked the court to grant her sole custody, which a Virginia judge did. She then filed a motion back in Vermont, asking the Vermont court to give "full faith and credit" recognition to the Virginia judge's ruling.

The Vermont court refused to honor the Virginia court ruling and, when Miller refused to obey the Vermont court's order that Miller allow visitation by Jenkins, the Vermont court declared Miller in contempt.

That set the stage for a battle between the state courts. The Vermont Supreme Court upheld its lower court ruling and that is the decision Miller sought to have the U.S. Supreme Court strike down. Instead, it refused to even review the case.

Jennifer Levi, an attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which filed a brief supporting Jenkins, applauded the high court's refusal.

"All children deserve the protection of the law and a loving relationship with both of their parents," said Levi. "There should be no Gay exception."

SGN Staff Writer Robert Raketty contributed to this report.

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