Thursday, September 15, 2005

Virginia on the Spot for Lesbian Child Custody

Over 60% of the Civil War was fought in Virginia. That state may relive its legacy through its judges' disdain for the laws of another state, to the full-faith and credit principle, and to the legislative process already begun elsewhere.

The Janet v. Lisa Miller-Jenkins affair has all the scripting of a made-for-TV movie. It even wages a vindictive parent using their child as a weapon in the nasty split and court action. We have had several posts, including this recent one.

The action moved back to Virginia yesterday, after last week's appeal in Vermont. Lawyers for both women came on strong to the states Court of Appeals (the highest there). If it upholds Lisa's sole-custody ruling in lower courts, it is overruling the previous Vermont decision, as well as violating federal law forbidding shopping for a better custody decision after losing in one state.

The previous Virginia judge did not seem to care for lesbians and civil unions. Lisa's claim of being an ex-lesbian and a new Christian apparently held more sway than precedent.

After arguments, the Virginia court did not rule immediately. According to the report in the Boston Globe, one of the judges, Jere M.H. Willis Jr., was clearly aware of the implication of overruling another state that had already ruled.

"Where are we then?" he asked. "Sounds like you're starting the Civil War."

At the least, this would head to the U.S. Supreme Court for the very unusual case of one state trying to trump another to prove a secondary political point. We would bet that Janet and Vermont would prevail.

According to the Washington Examiner's article, Lisa's attorney, Rena M. Lindevaldsen, does see a problem with playing one state against another. "You can call it forum-shopping, but she's just trying to protect her rights as a parent," she said.

Unfortunately, we cannot tell from the newspaper report whether she was smirking at the time.

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