Group: Vt. Conviction Boosts Gay Parents’ Rights
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The conviction of a Virginia pastor on charges he helped a woman flee the country rather than share custody of her child with her former lesbian partner did little to answer just where the girl and her mother are.
But one legal expert said Tuesday’s conviction did succeed in reinforcing the legal rights of same-sex parents.
Gregory Nevins, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a national group that promotes the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, said an acquittal might have sent the message that if "all of a sudden you want to cut off your partner and the other parent completely, go to Virginia, go to Alabama, go to some place that the courts will be hospitable to a claim like that."
Kenneth Miller was convicted of orchestrating the flight of Lisa Miller and her daughter, working with others to find them a new home in Central America. At the time of her 2009 disappearance, Lisa Miller was bound by a Vermont family court order that she give her former partner, Janet Jenkins, visitation with their daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins.
Lisa Miller, who isn’t related to Kenneth Miller, and the now-10-year-old girl were last known to be in Nicaragua.
As the guilty verdict was being read against Kenneth Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Va., in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Jenkins’ attorney filed a civil lawsuit against both Millers and a number of other groups and individuals alleged to have been involved in her flight. The suit alleges the Millers and the groups worked together to keep Isabella beyond the reach of Jenkins and asks for unspecified monetary damages.
"Janet’s only objective is to get Isabella home safely," said Sarah Star, a lawyer for Jenkins. "Anything we’re doing is for the purpose of putting pressure on people who know where she is and can help with her return."