Saturday, January 16, 2010

Protect Isabella

I'd like to thank reader Scott (aka "romishgraffiti") for his link to this website, which has been created to help protect Isabella Miller from a court decision giving full custody to her mother's lesbian ex-partner, who only lived with Isabella and her mother, Lisa Miller, for the first 17 months of the child's life.

Whatever you think of gay marriage, it is an absolute travesty for a court to declare that a biologically unrelated adult who never adopted this child or forged any other form of legal relationship with her should be handed full custody of her, while her biological mother is left out in the cold. And why this is happening in a state which does not even recognize "gay marriages" or gay civil unions is puzzling, as this ad from the website shows:



Little Isabella Miller deserves to stay with her own real biological mother. However much or however absurdly we want to pretend that a child can have "two mommies," there is no doubt in this case who Isabella's mother is--and for a court to push its activist agenda by handing the little girl over to a complete stranger is something horrific and frightening for any parent to contemplate.

19 comments:

romishgraffiti said...

Thanks for linking this. I'm trying to get in the habit of signing my name. Call me Scott. :)

Also, I'd like to point out that Lydia McGrew has been doing the heavy lifting on this here and here.


Scott W.

Red Cardigan said...

I've updated the post to add your name! Thanks, again, for the links on this. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you should wonder why the Court decided ad it did. Preference is always given to the biological parent over an unrelated party, which makes me wonder exactly what Ms. Miller was doing that the Court sided with what should have been the easily dismissed (gay, unrelated) party.

Quite frankly, I suspect neglect or abuse.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is about neglect or abuse. If you read the stories in the mainstream media, both women sound like train wrecks and the relationship stormy. The biological mother has renounced being a lesbian and wants to keep her daughter away from her old life, including her partner. As a result, she's managed to keep the little girl from having any relationship with her. What the non-biological partner's motives are are less clear. There is a lot at stake here for groups that want to help people who want to leave the lifestyle but risk losing their kids or having to participate in joint custody arrangements with former same sex partners when they no longer want to be reminded of their former life. There is also a lot at stake for gay groups that want to make sure that gay divorces get the same kind of treatment that straight divorces get in the courts. Sounds like a clash of the titans to me.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I'm a sucker for a story of cruel injustice, and likewise when it involves courts or social workers being stupid. But this little girl's biological mother set herself up for this tangled mess. I think the best thing for the child, which is the only legitimate consideration, would be for the "gay rights" people and the "Christian family" people to butt out. Neither one has any moral right to use a 4 1/2 year old as a political football for their respective agendas.

I was wondering about the girl's father, but the full news coverage makes that clear: he is an anonymous sperm donor. If there is any case for a non-biological parent gaining custody, it would be one who jointly entered into a pact for this sort of artificial insemination. I can also see a logical case in this for why gay marriage should be routine -- then, either the couple is married, with child custody issues spelled out, or they are not, in which case the "other woman" has even less rights than an unmarried biological father.

I am curious what effect a Vermont judge's ruling will have on a child currently in custody of a woman in Virginia. There are ample grounds for a Virginia court to deny that the Vermont court had jurisdiction in the first place, full faith and credit, and the interstate compact on child custody, notwithstanding. I also know of parents in Maryland with full custody of a child (one biological, one step) who received a visit from sherrif's deputies serving an order from another jurisdiction on a case from the other biological parent to bring the child to court forthwith.

In my seldom humble opinion, in a case such as this, someone should ask the child, who do you want to live with? That may not be the final word, but it should be asked and respected. It sounds like she would prefer to stay with Lisa, and if so, that would seem like the best solution to me -- all the political agendas being irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Siarlys, if only it were that simple. The non-biological parent is claiming that the other parent caused the estrangement, that's why she's seeking custody. This happens quite a bit in divorce cases, if divorce happens when the children are young, the mother gets custody and the dad gets visitation. Between bad mouthing dad and the fact that he's just not around anymore 24/7 Dad has a hard time keeping a close relationship with the kids. By the time they are old enough to shuttle back and forth between parents easily, Dad is a stranger and they prefer Mom, home and school friends. Amazing how gay marraige is fairly new and already we have the same problems.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

All true, and potentially unfair to one parent or another. But, I question sending a child who is comfortable with one parent (however unfairly that comfort was created) to another parent with whom the child will not be comfortable, merely to vindicate that wounded parent. That is a valid concern no matter what the sexual orientation, past, present or future, of either or both parents.

Anonymous said...

"Little Isabella Miller deserves to stay with her own real biological mother..."

Actually, Little Isabella deserves something far better than that lunatic. But I agree that the ex-girlfriend should have no legal standing whatsoever.

Geoff G. said...

Reading between the lines of an obviously biased article, it seems pretty obvious to me that Miller deliberately is trying to exploit the controversy of the gay marriage issue, especially in a state like Virginia, as part of her divorce settlement. As has been said, people do nasty things in divorces, and it seems to me that absconding with a child is particularly obscene.

Personally, I'd always thought that social conservatives disapproved of using children as political footballs. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of the issue, it's bound to make life miserable for the child.

I guess this just goes to show that attacking gay people is more important than the interests of a child. Typical.

If Miller is facing contempt of court citations and fines, she has only herself to blame.

Incidentally, I particularly like how Jenkins is referred to as "the lesbian woman she feared" (no reason given for why she was feared mind you; presumably if there was one the site would be trumpeting that to the heavens. All there is in the article is insinuation—again, typical social conservative thuggery). What the heck was Miller when she tied the knot in Vermont if not a lesbian?

Miller's no better than any other parent in a divorce who kidnaps a child because they can't win in court.

Anonymous said...

"Miller's no better than any other parent in a divorce who kidnaps a child because they can't win in court."

The ex-girlfriend is NOT a parent, that's the whole point.

Geoff G. said...

Anonymous

The ex-girlfriend is NOT a parent, that's the whole point.

Right, right, because adoptive parents aren't real parents. You know you sound like a crabby teenager, "You're not my real mom!"

Red Cardigan said...

Geoff, did you read about this case? Jenkins never adopted Isabella. That's one of the major elements of the dispute.

Geoff G. said...

I did read the article. How do you think the law would view it if Miller had been married to an infertile man and they had had a child through IVF using donated sperm?

The husband in that relationship would undoubtedly have been the father of that child. Same thing here.

Red Cardigan said...

"Same thing here," Geoff? Really? Jenkins ought legally to be considered the child's father?

You're begging the question. You think Isabella Miller has two mothers, that legally it ought to be no different from a child's having a mother and a father. But that's exactly what the whole argument is about, isn't it?

It's by no means certain that an infertile man would be considered the father of his *girlfriend's* baby conceived via IVF if he didn't bother adopting the child. It's also rather unlikely that a court would rule him a de facto parent if the girlfriend split when the baby was less than two years old. You can try to drag the red herring of marriage across the debate, but Miller and Jenkins were not married. The civil union they were in did not mean Jenkins didn't have to adopt Isabella--she was advised to do so at the time!

Red Cardigan said...

"Same thing here," Geoff? Really? Jenkins ought legally to be considered the child's father?

You're begging the question. You think Isabella Miller has two mothers, that legally it ought to be no different from a child's having a mother and a father. But that's exactly what the whole argument is about, isn't it?

It's by no means certain that an infertile man would be considered the father of his *girlfriend's* baby conceived via IVF if he didn't bother adopting the child. It's also rather unlikely that a court would rule him a de facto parent if the girlfriend split when the baby was less than two years old. You can try to drag the red herring of marriage across the debate, but Miller and Jenkins were not married. The civil union they were in did not mean Jenkins didn't have to adopt Isabella--she was advised to do so at the time!

Geoff G. said...

But that's exactly what the whole argument is about, isn't it?

I'm so glad we could come into an agreement on something.

It's by no means certain that an infertile man would be considered the father of his *girlfriend's* baby conceived via IVF if he didn't bother adopting the child. It's also rather unlikely that a court would rule him a de facto parent if the girlfriend split when the baby was less than two years old.

I won't pretend to know the law of Vermont, but it's my understanding that civil unions there confer all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. The correct analogy, as far as the state law is concerned, whether you personally like it or not, is between husband and wife, not boyfriend and girlfriend.

“Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under Vermont law, whether they derive from statute, policy, administrative or court rule, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.” - Vermont Act 91, 2000 Session

I know that you think that it's your responsibility as a Catholic to blithely ignore any laws you don't care for, but judges don't get to act that way (which is precisely why JPs, who are legally officers of the court, in states where gay marriage is legal are obliged to issue licenses to gay people regardless of their personal views).

The civil union they were in did not mean Jenkins didn't have to adopt Isabella--she was advised to do so at the time!

That may well be. Her lawyer probably advised this out of an overabundance of caution, since the civil union law had probably never been tested at that point. Lawyers, as I'm sure you are well aware, typically act out of an overabundance of caution to protect their clients' interests.

No doubt Jenkins was advised to adopt the child on top of the civil union, because the law was new and an adoption would have prevented any uncertainty whatsoever (which has since been settled by the court).

Siarlys Jenkins said...

If I read the articles right, and I went to a few more than the one linked to here, the two women DID enter into a legal relationship under Vermont law. If that is so, then they do have legal obligations to each other. One could argue that the way this partnership fell apart is a good argument that gay relationships are transient and should not be recognized as marriages. Its only one anecdote, but if it can be multiplied statistically, it might be a good case. (The plaintiffs in the MA Goodridge case have already divorced, so much for "My mommies can marry."

But, at present, two adults entered into a legally binding contract in Vermont. THAT gives the "other mother" some legal standing, like it or not. On the other hand, if she is just doing this to justify herself, rather than because it will truly benefit the child, she ought to sacrifice her pride and tearfully butt out.

Geoff G. said...

An alternative point of view fills in a few gaps.

Isabella was born in Virginia in 2002, after Janet and Lisa, who had entered a Vermont Civil Union, decided to have a child together. Lisa was artificially inseminated and conceived Isabella, while Janet was an active part of the IVF process and pregnancy. The family moved to Vermont a few months after Isabella’s birth. Lisa would later claim that Janet wasn’t a significant part of the baby’s life, despite key facts to the contrary. Isabella’s last name is listed as “Miller-Jenkins,” on her birth certificate. In fact, both Janet and Lisa also used this hyphenated last name. Janet also served as the family’s sole breadwinner following Isabella’s birth.

Most important is the Virginia Court of Appeals' ruling:

“Many factors are present here that support a conclusion that Janet is a parent, including, first and foremost, that Janet and Lisa were in a valid legal union at the time of the child’s birth. The other factors include the following. It was the expectation and intent of both Lisa and Janet that Janet would be Isabella’s parent. Janet participated in the decision that Lisa would be artificially inseminated to bear a child and participated actively in the prenatal care and birth. Both Lisa and Janet treated Janet as Isabella’s parent during the time they resided together, and Lisa identified Janet as a parent of Isabella in the dissolution petition. Finally, there is no other claimant to the status of parent, and, as a result, a negative decision would leave Isabella with only one parent. The sperm donor was anonymous and is making no claim to be Isabella’s parent. If Janet had been Lisa’s husband, these factors would make Janet the parent of the child born from the artificial insemination.” (Emphasis added)

More from Salon...

...the Washington Post...

...and from a Newsweek article (from after Miller started withholding Isabella but before she disappeared).

Miller leveled child-abuse allegations against her ex-partner last year. The claims were investigated by Virginia's Child Protective Services and deemed "unfounded." Still, Miller is petitioning to have this matter heard in court. (in other words, the abuse allegations are the usual divorce proceeding shenanigans perpetrated by dishonest parents all the time—and Christians defend this behavior!)

Personally, I see this ending one of two ways. Either Miller and Isabella never surface again (or worse, Miller does something to Isabella to "save" her from Jenkins)—either way, at best Isabella's messed up for life (if only from having to grow up underground). Or Jenkins ends up with Isabella and Miller's lucky if she even gets visitation (courts generally really, really disapprove of people who flagrantly and deliberately disregard their authority)—and that will have been all Miller's fault.

Given that all Jenkins has been asking for is enforcement of her visitation rights, it's really difficult to justify Miller's actions unless you're a lunatic gay-hating nutjob.

Tony said...

I'm thinking about this, and I am having a hard time believing what I am about to say:

The girl's mother set herself up for this problem by entering into a live-in relationship with another adult to whom the child could become attached.

The same thing would happen if the woman lived with a boyfriend who was not related to the girl who the girl came to love. This man would most likely be allowed visitation with the child, and if the mother refused, it would be considered comtempt of court.

The judge figured that since this woman was obstinately in contempt that the only way to enforce the ruling was to grant custody to the ex-lesbian partner.

Sad, but expected.