A woman who left her wife to convert to evangelical Christianity is now facing jail . . . because she doesn’t think the Vermont courts have the right to force her to send a little girl conceived during their relationship to visit her ex-girlfriend.
Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a legal civil union in Vermont seven years ago. But when Miller left the relationship, moved to Virginia and became an evangelical Christian, she took biological daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins with her.
The baby was conceived with the help of a sperm donor,using Miller’s eggs. Which means Miller thinks she shouldn’t have to share the girl with Jenkins – even though the two were legally united at the time of conception. Now attending a Virginia church associated with Jerry Falwell’s organization, she’s been getting help from the evangelical community to fight off Vermont rulings that would provide Jenkins with rights to the child. She even got a Virginia court to give her sole custody, the same day the commonwealth passed its own version of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Vermont, on the other hand, has continued to award Jenkins at least some rights – despite Miller having primary custody, Jenkins was awarded visitation.
There hasn’t been a lot of news since – the last major piece on the battle between the former couple came in Newsweek last fall. Even Miller’s Only One Mommy blog hasn’t been updated since its plea for people to contact Fox News on her behalf, also last fall.
Then this: the very anti-homosexual, pro-Lisa Miller site LifeSiteNews, which let out updates on the case last spring, let slip that Miller’s got an Aug. 25 deadline from Vermont. Already held in contempt for violating visitation rulings already, she could land in jail for her refusal to acquiesce.
Miller says she won’t allow the visits because Isabella comes home with thoughts of suicide and reports of being forced to bathe naked with her other mother – although Virginia child services says an investigation did not find any foundation to those allegations.
I’m curious – what does she hope to prove by landing in jail? Is that really best for a child? To not have ANY parent at all?
This case has made plenty of legal points – including a need for states to strengthen the rights of parents when a child does not share genetic material with his or her parent. Jenkins confesses she never formally adopted the child because she thought her civil union was enough. It wasn’t. Even with its progressive look at same-sex marriage, Vermont still required an adoption process to make Isabella more than emotionally her child.
It also highlights parents’ need to separate their decisions from those they make for their child. Every person has a right to change their mind, including a lesbian to return to her Baptist roots and return to her former heterosexual lifestyle (Miller was married to a man prior to her civil union). But Isabella was conceived inside a form of marriage, and Jenkins was her mother for the first chunk of her life. Miller not liking her former partner anymore doesn’t mean that relationship is over . . . any more than my daughter’s relationship with my husband would be over if I suddenly stopped liking him.
But the biggest point this case makes? Is a cementing of the notion that parenting is not about genetics. Janet Jenkins may not be a man and therefore could not supply the sperm to her ex-wife’s egg. But for the first few years of a child’s life, she was the second parent in the room acting as a parent does. And that gives her rights.