Supreme Court Again Declines to Consider Miller V. Jenkins Case
November 8, 2010 by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to consider -for the fifth time - a case regarding the custody of a child born to a lesbian couple in Vermont. The couple, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, had been in a civil union in Vermont and had been ruled legal co-parents by a Vermont court. When the relationship ended in 2003, Miller, the biological mother, moved to Virginia with the couple’s daughter and, later that year, returned to Vermont to dissolve their civil union. In June 2004, the Vermont Family Court awarded the former partner visitation rights in Vermont and Virginia. After a new law went into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2004, purporting to null and void civil unions along with other partnerships between same-sex couples, the biological mother filed a petition requesting sole custody based on the fact that the new law made the civil union null and void. During this time, Jenkins, still living in Vermont, filed for full custody.
The Vermont court heard oral arguments in early August 2004, and in November 2004 the Vermont court held that Jenkins had all the legal rights that any parent would have to a child born into marriage. The Vermont court also found the Miller in contempt because she refused to allow her former partner visitation. In August 2004, a Virginia court ruled that Virginia had jurisdiction in the case. This decision was appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals. In November 2006, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Vermont had jurisdiction in this case and that Virginia courts must give full faith and credit to the custody and visitation orders of the Vermont court. In March 2008, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision to award custody to Jenkins and hold Miller in contempt of Court. Then in June 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision that Vermont has jurisdiction. Miller disappeared with their daughter in late 2008 and failed to turn the child over to Jenkins in January 2009 as ordered by the court. Miller’s whereabouts are unknown.
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