Supreme Court lets lower-court rulings in lesbian custody dispute stand

The latest attempt of a Virginia woman to have the United States Supreme Court overrule a series of rulings in a long-running custody dispute involving her former domestic partner failed Monday.
The Supreme Court let stand the lower-court rulings that recognized that a Vermont court has jurisdiction in the case involving custody of a child born during the Vermont civil union between Lisa Miller, the child’s biological mother, and Janet Jenkins, who had been awarded visitation rights with the couple’s daughter after they had had their civil union dissolved.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Kent Willis, the excutive director of the ACLU of Virginia, which is working with the Atlanta-based Lambda Legal Defense Fund in representing Jenkins. “With both Virginia and Vermont courts agreeing that Vermont has jurisdiction, there is clearly no need for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in,” Willis said.

The Virginia Court of Appeals and the Vermont Supreme Court have both held that Vermont has sole jurisdiction over the matter and that Virginia must honor the Vermont court’s rulings. Under federal law, a state court may not interfere with an ongoing custody proceeding in another state.

“The Virginia courts have simply followed the accepted law and recognized the custody and visitation decisions of another state, as they would expect other states to recognize their decisions,” ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said. “Lisa Miller does not get to cherry pick her courts to suit her liking. Simply because she did not like the Vermont court’s decision does not allow her to try to get a more favorable ruling from another state,” Glenberg said.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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