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Posts for June, 2010

Isabella Miller-Jenkins may be in El Salvador

Timothy Kincaid

June 3rd, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

The attorneys for Lisa Miller, who kidnapped daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins and fled, will be back in court this month to argue that the judge erred in reassigning custody to Janet Jenkins, Isabella’s other mother. But this may be a difficult sell, considering that Lisa and Isabella have not been seen from since last September.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were in a Civil Union living in Vermont when they decided to bring Isabella into the world. But after breaking up with Jenkins, Miller converted to conservative Christianity, decided that she was no longer a lesbian, and followed the encouragement of her fellow believers to deny Jenkins her parental rights.

Courts granted Jenkins visitation but for years Miller refused to comply and instead expressed in news media her contempt for the courts and her intention to ignore their rulings while her attorneys posted endless appeals. Eventually the US Supreme Court weighed in, upholding Jenkins’ rights and, after it was clear that Miller would never comply with visitation orders, full custody was granted to Jenkins.

But by then it was too late. Miller had disappeared with Isabella.

Her attorneys (Liberty Counsel), her church (the late Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church), Isabella’s school (affiliated with the church), and her supporters sat on her disappearance for as long as they could, providing the illusion that Lisa was still living in Virginia. It was not until December of last year that the charade fell apart and it became clear to Janet and the courts that Lisa had fled several months prior.

Now there is a report that Miller, a fugitive with an arrest warrant, may have fled to El Salvador to thwart the court in its efforts to provide for Isabella’s best interests in her custody dispute with Jenkins. (WaPo)

The girl, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, and her birth mother, Lisa Miller, failed to appear for a court-ordered custody swap in January and are believed to have flown to El Salvador last September, said attorney Sarah Star, who represents ex-partner Janet Jenkins.

Star said a Virginia police officer told her that Miller and the girl flew to El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, from Juarez, Mexico, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Miller has no known legitimate source of income and is not believed to speak Spanish. It is highly unlikely that Miller has pulled off this disappearing act without significant involvement, if not coordination, from members of the Thomas Road Baptist Church or perhaps other anti-gay activists. Considering that they all conspired to keep her disappearance unknown, it would be interesting to know if they were complicit in Isabella’s kidnapping.

The last known contact from Lisa was through Debbie Thurman, a ex-gay activist and church friend who had been administering Lisa’s website. Debbie posted a note from Lisa on December 4, 2009, about three months after Lisa disappeared.

However, while Miller has a rich, powerful, politically connected network on her side, Jenkins is not alone in her struggle to find her daughter and bring her home. Advocates for abducted children have joined the cause.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has turned its attention to Central America, distributing photos and information about Isabella to news outlets throughout the region, apparently believing she and her birth mother moved there, Star said Thursday.

Isabella, a pigtailed 4-foot-tall blonde, is listed on the Center’s website as a victim of a family abduction who may be in the company of Miller.

I very much hope that Isabella can be found and returned to her distraught mother and that Lisa Miller will be held responsible for her crimes.

Lisa Miller is now officially a fugitive

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

On January 1, Miller was to meet Janet Jenkins, with whom her civil union has been terminated, to turn over custody of their daughter Isabella. A court in Vermont, where they were civilly united and where they resided together, had ordered visitation rights to Jenkins and, after years of refusal by Miller, determined that the only way to keep both mothers in Isabella’s life was to reassign primary custody to Jenkins. But Miller went into hiding and hasn’t been seen by her neighbors since September, and the last public communication from Miller was in December, when she passed a message to her supporters though ex-gay leader Debbie Thurman.

Last Tuesday, Judge Harrison of Bedford County Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court chose not to issue an arrest warrant for Lisa Miller. He determined that it could not be proven that Miller was aware of the court order to transfer custody, so he would reward her disrespect for the judicial system by refusing to press criminal charges against her. He scheduled another hearing for May 19.

It is clear that Miller is fully aware of her responsibility to turn over Isabella and to think otherwise requires an amazing suspension of disbelief. The story been covered by newspapers nationwide, and Miller was still in communication with her supporters after the November 20 order was announced. But Miller’s friends swore that they don’t know where she is and the judge chose to give credence to their testimony (I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the reputation of conservative Christians encourages you to trust them or to immediately assume that they are lying through their teeth).

In January, Judge Cohen, the Vermont judge who has been involved with the custody since the breakup, gave Miller’s supporters an additional 30 days to convince her to follow the law. Miller did not show up, so Judge Cohen has now found her in contempt. (WaPo)

Family Court Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., in contempt of court during a hearing Tuesday and issued the arrest warrant.

Considering the entrenched homophobia in Virginia and the political power of Thomas Road Baptist Church, I am not hopeful that the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department will do much to recover Isabella. However, unless I am mistaken, this arrest warrant would allow bounty hunters and private investigators to initiate steps to rescue Isabella from a life on the run with the fugitive Lisa Miller.

Janet Jenkins tells her story on Nightline

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2010

Janet Jenkins went on Nightline last night to tell her story and appeal to the public to help her find her daughter.

“My goal has never been to separate Isabella from her other mother, Lisa,” said Jenkins. “I just want what is best for our child, and that is to know both of her parents.”

Lisa Miller given 30 more days in hiding before arrest warrant

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2010

From the Washington Post:

A judge is giving a Virginia woman at the center of a lesbian custody dispute 30 days to appear in court with her 7-year-old daughter or face possible arrest.

Despite all the accusations of judicial activism from the supporters of Lisa Miller, Judge Cohen has been, to my way of thinking, extremely generous in giving Miller chance after chance after chance to simply conform to the custody to which she agreed. And even though it is clear that Miller is actively thwarting the will of the court, he generously gives her more time.

Of course those who see the world in terms of good (Miller) and evil (militant radical deviant homosexualist bloggers like me) will continue to denounce Cohen as a tool of Satan and see this continued generosity as a sign of the miraculous hand of God.

Deacon succinctly lays out Catholic objection to marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2010

Writing in Catholic Online, Deacon Keith Fournier laments that courts have treated Janet Jenkins with respect and honored the commitments that she and Lisa Miller made. In the midst of his tirade, is a sentence that epitomizes the attitudes of those who rally forth to oppose equality.

They want the State to treat homosexual partnerships as the equivalent of marriage, thereby denying real marriage and the family founded upon it, the favored legal place it has long held as the first society.

It is not that they wish to “preserve tradition” or “uphold the definition” or are “worried about the children”. Those are just subterfuges presented to the media to distract from the real reason.

No, they truly believe that they deserve a favored legal place and that our lives, our relationships and our very citizenship is inferior to their own.

Dvorak on Miller-Jenkins

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2010

In an article in the Washington Post, Petula Dvorak gets props for the best quote yet on Lisa Miller’s kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Well, actually, the two best quotes:

Miller told Newsweek two years ago that letting Isabella live with Jenkins would be like giving her child to the milkman.

Well, yeah — if you lived with the milkman, made love to him, bought a house with him, entered a civil union with him at a quaint resort blanketed in snow and bedecked with greenery, sat through fertility treatments that he helped pay for, let him catch the baby as you pushed and shared midnight burping and diaper duties — it would be just like giving your child to the milkman.

and my favorite:

Miller’s legal team said in court that a move to Vermont, with a new school and new friends, would be disruptive for a 7-year-old.

And going into hiding isn’t?

Virginia court orders Lisa Miller to turn over Isabella

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

One of the arguments of those supporting Lisa Miller in her effort to hide Isabella Miller-Jenkins is that the order to turn Isabella over to her mother, Janet Jenkins, is issued in Vermont and not enforceable in Virginia. That argument may no longer be valid (Lynchburg News and Advance):

A court order filed Monday in Bedford County requires that a 7-year-old girl at the center of a custody battle involving a Forest woman be surrendered to the woman’s former lesbian partner in Vermont.

Rebecca Glenburg, the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union attorney for Janet Jenkins, confirmed that the Bedford Juvenile and Domestic Relations court filed the order. She said it ensures that the Vermont court order requiring Lisa Miller to surrender the couple’s daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, is enforceable in Virginia.

A report from WSLS raises another interesting issue in relation to timing:

Miller’s last known address is a rental property in Forest. The sheriff’s office says neighbors haven’t seen the mother and daughter since September.

If Miller has been in hiding since September, then it is even more peculiar that Debbie Thurman was relaying commentary from her as recent as December 4th. It does make Thurman’s protestations of ignorance less credible and raises the question as to whether Miller was assisted by persons who abetted her absconding with Isabella but who chose not to have the exact details so as to retain a level of deniability.

Were I the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department, I would start questioning with Thurman and others at Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University with whom Miller has had close contact, including those with whom she may have resided in the past.

UPDATE: 4/27/11

Debbie Thurman has provided us with the following response:

Do you think this has not been looked into by “the authorities”? It has.
They are the only ones who needed to hear from me on it. It was properly
dismissed last year as insignificant.

Jenkins seeks help of court and police

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2010

From CBS News:

A Vermont woman locked in a child custody battle with a former partner who has since renounced homosexuality asked a judge Monday to hold her ex in contempt and help find her and their 7-year-old daughter.

A lawyer for Janet Jenkins filed an emergency motion for contempt for not surrendering the couple’s daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, on Friday.

The motion seeks court sanctions and the assistance of law enforcement in locating Lisa Miller, whose last known address was Forest, Va., but whose whereabouts are now unknown.

Reason.com looks at the Miller-Jenkins case

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2010

reason'Reason magazine (and Reason.com, its online presence) approach issues from a libertarian bent. In Who’s Your Daddy? Or Your Other Daddy? Or Your Mommy?, Ronald Bailey, Reason’s science columnist, looks at three cases of disputed parenthood.

Case 1: Sean and Donald Robinson Hollingsworth’s dispute with Donald’s sister (a non-biological surrogate) over their twin girls.

Case 2: “Mike L in Pennsylvania” who is paying child support to his spouse and her new husband for a child that test show is the biological child of the new husband rather than Mike.

Case 3: Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins’ custody battle over Isabella.

Anti-gays seeking to justify Miller’s absconding with Isabella like to point out that the girl is not the genetic child of Jenkins. But Bailey makes what I think is a reasonable and consistent argument.

When Miller and Jenkins joined in civil union and decided together on having a child by artificial insemination, it was clear that both would be parents regardless of genetic ties. Now Miller apparently wants to make the claim that genetics should have priority when it comes to child custody.

Rather than wading into questions of genetics, why not apply an ethical analysis of contractual obligations to these cases? In the New Jersey surrogacy case, the sister agreed to bear children using donor eggs and sperm from her brother’s partner for the male couple.

In the case of Mike L, his wife broke their marriage contract when she cuckolded him and bore a child that was not his.

In other words, the best interest for children is that their parents act like adults and live up to their obligations, contracts, and commitments. It sounds like sound policy to me.

Janet Jenkins Seeks Public’s Help To Locate Missing Child

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2010

As we’ve been reporting, a Vermont family court had ordered Lisa Miller to transfer custody of Isabella Miller-Jenkins to Janet Jenkins on January 1, 2010. The court order came as a result of Miller’s refusal to allow her former civil union partner access to the child they had been raising together. Miller has refused to comply with that court order, and her whereabouts and those of Isabella are currently unknown. Janet Jenkins is now turning to the public for help in locating her daughter.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

“I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is okay.

Isabella is my daughter. Lisa and I decided together to have a child, and that we would use alternative reproductive technology to do so. We picked out a donor together. I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.

Eventually, the courts ruled that I was Isabella’s parent, but in my heart I’ve always known that. It was devastating to me, as I’m sure it was to Isabella, when Lisa withheld contact between me and my daughter.

My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa. I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. I just want to be with her, like any parent.

Please help me find my child.”

Anyone with information regarding Isabella’s and Lisa’s whereabouts should call the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-586-4800.

Debbie Thurman: the source of Lisa’s last communication

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2010

The extent to which Debbie Thurman was involved in the effort to deny Janet Jenkins her legal parental rights is more extensive than might have been guessed. Thurman has often portrayed herself as someone who knows Lisa Miller but who is objective. But the further into the story we get, the more Debbie’s hand is seen.

We knew that she was the spokesperson for the Protect Isabella site and now it appears that she is the administrator of the Facebook page entitled as “Only One Mommy: The Story of Lisa and Isabella Miller“. After having shut down her own website and that of the Formers, Debbie has reported a technical glitch is making it difficult to shut down discussion on that page as well.

It is difficult to determine Debbie’s intentions, but it seems that she is in the process of eliminating at least part of the public history of the discussion about Lisa’s efforts to deny Janet visitation – especially that which displays the words of Lisa’ supporters. I will not speculate on the reason why. Debbie may feel that the discussion is becoming confrontational and unneccessarily angry or maybe she’s embarrassed by the unbridled hatred that some of Lisa’s supporters are spewing.

Or maybe she has other purposes. I do not know.

But it does appear that Debbie – according to the Facebook page – may be the last person who publicly reported any contact with Lisa. The anti-gay LifeSiteNews reports

Miller’s last public communication was posted on her Facebook page December 4 by a supporter.

This supporter was, not suprisingly, Debbie Thurman, who posted the following:

A Note from Lisa
I just wanted to thank all of you for your kind and encouraging words. Please know that I cherish your hopefulness, Bible verses/stories and words of praise for our God that you share with me via this forum. I also want to let you know that due to saving money I am no…t renewing my internet services. However, I will check FB periodically because when I do get on I am immediately encouraged by your faithfulness to our God by how you continue to praise Him –even through this “dark” ruling. Thank You. Please do continue to praise God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is work within us, to him be the glory” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Remember, “He will do only as much for us as we allow Him to do in us” (The Alliance). This reminds me of the widow’s oil and Nahum washing in the river- if they did not believe 100% then they would not have been the recipient of our Father’s miracles. Furthermore, also please remember that the widow would have received as much oil as the number of her containers- in other words, more faith- more oil. I have been in prayer and Bible study over the matter of late and I believe that God is not finished. God is the God of the impossible: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). “Therefore, may we continue to persevere, for even if we took our circumstances and cast all darkness of human doubt upon them and then hastily piled as many difficulties together as we could find against God’s divine word, we could never move beyond the blessedness of His miracle – working power. May we place our faith completely in Him, for He is the God of the impossible” (Streams in the Desert). Are we not here in my legal case? I choose to wait patiently on Him (Daniel 12:12) and continue to stand on His promise (for both Isabella and me) that “no weapon formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). Let us continue to go forward in faith as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Daniel, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and others who went forward (Hebrews 11). “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Thank you again friends in Christ for “standing in the gap for Isabella and me.” “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority. And my people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:31)

It is quite possible that Debbie Thurman is not the last person with public knowledge about Lisa’s whereabouts. It would not be surprising if Lias had communication with her legal counsel after she and Debbie arranged for this message to be posted.

It is early in this investigation and many more sources may become available. But at least the police do have a starting spot if they choose to vigorously pursue this parental abduction.

UPDATE: 4/27/11

Debbie Thurman has provided us with the following response:

Do you think this has not been looked into by “the authorities”? It has.
They are the only ones who needed to hear from me on it. It was properly
dismissed last year as insignificant.

Lisa Miller in hiding with Isabella

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2010

As we expected, ABC is reporting that Lisa Miller did not appear at her court appointed time to turn custody of Isabella over to Janet Jenkins.

Lisa Miller, 41, of Winchester, Va., was ordered by a Vermont family court judge in November to hand over her daughter Isabella by 1 p.m. to Janet Jenkins , 45, of Fairhaven, Vt.

But according to Jenkins’ lawyer, Miller failed to show up.

“Janet is quite distressed and she notified the police,” said Sarah Star, Jenkins’ Vermont lawyer. “She is concerned about Isabella’s safety and Ms. Miller’s mental stability.”

Janet Jenkins Files Missing Person Report For Her Daughter

Jim Burroway

December 31st, 2009
Janet Jenkins and her daughter (2006)

Janet Jenkins and her daughter (2006)

Janet Jenkins, who was granted custody of her daughter by a family court judge, has filed a Missing Person report for her daughter, according to her lawyer. The court ordered her former partner, Lisa Miller, to transfer custody of the child, but Miller’s lawyer said that he does not know Miller’s or the child’s whereabouts.

Rutland Family Court Judge William Cohen had awarded Janet Jenkins custody of the couple’s daughter beginning Friday, January 1. If Miller does not comply with the judge’s order, she could be held in criminal contempt. She could also be charged with custodial interference, a felony which carries a sentence of up to five years.

Debbie Thurman endorses Lisa Miller’s kidnapping of Isabella

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2009

Debbie ThurmanDebbie Thurman is the facilitator of an ex-gay ministry in Lynchburg, VA, called The Formers. She is also a regular participant at Dr. Throckmorton’s site and an infrequent commenter here at Box Turtle Bulletin.

It was, I suppose, inevitable that Thurman would become interested in Lisa Miller, the woman who is seeking to keep Janet Jenkins, her former partner, from having contact with their child. Thurman’s anti-gay political attitudes, along with their mutual attendance at Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church Jerry Falwell founded), surely drew them together.

And, indeed, Thurman is an avid advocate for Lisa Miller. Although she pretends some distance and objectivity in some of her comments, it is not coincidence that the “Protect Isabella” website is registered at her business address and that she was their contact person (the site is rife with homophobic smear and insinuation).

Debbie likes to see herself as a civil person, one who follows the example of Andrew Marin, who has made it his mission to build a bridge between the religious and LGBT communities. But, unlike Marin who believes that love should be an expression of behavior of Christians towards gay people, Thurman seems to think that adopting a sheen of momentary civility while at a gay website is effort enough.

Let me be fair. Debbie’s recent conversion to civility is not without some measurability. She was quick to join in opposition to the Ugandan effort to enact the draconian Kill Gays bill. But she is so immersed in a culture of animus towards gay people that she is also quick to believe the worst about gay people, no matter how bizarre or comical.

And she seems incapable of seeing gay people as equal to herself or, indeed, much other than an enemy to conquer and vanquish. Convinced that a battle is waging between homosexuality and God, she appears incapable of disengaging from her Culture War.

And it is through that prism that Debbie Thurman sees the custody battle between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins over their daughter Isabelle. Let’s look at how she discusses Miller’s refusal to conform with the visitation and custody ordered by a judge and upheld by the Supreme Courts of Virgina and Vermont and the United States Supreme Court.

Responding to Miller’s disappearance with Isabella, Thurman wrote an article titled “This is True Motherhood”, in which she endorses Lisa Miller’s apparent kidnapping of Isabella and compares her to the nation’s founding fathers.

I cannot answer the burning question on everyone’s lips: Where are Lisa and Isabella? Somewhere safe, I pray. How and when did they get there? Only God knows.

What happens now? A lot of frustration, recrimination and more lies on one side and a collective sigh of relief on the other. The courts still have a huge task set before them, meanwhile. Lisa and Isabella represent only one of many similar cases waiting to be resolved. We need precedents that honor the prevailing states’ rights, laws and constitutions. The majority of Americans overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. If the tyrannical minority wants to push against that, it can and will be met with civil disobedience. There is no other way.

Lisa Miller is a mother who would give up her life to save her child. Of that there is no doubt. She apparently has chosen to forfeit a large measure of her liberty, personal property and pursuit of happiness in assuring that child her God-ordained future, much as a group of patriots pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor more than two centuries ago to establish this nation.

I say God bless and long live Lisa and Isabella Miller. All who have known them are the better for it. [emphasis added]

If, as Andrew Marin says, love is “a measurable expression of one’s unconditional behaviors towards another”, then we can use this measure to see if there is any love in Debbie Thurman.

Kidnapping a child so as to spite a former partner, using religion as an excuse for one’s own selfish desires, and taking advantage of local bigotries to elicit sympathy are not admirable traits. But, in the passion of parental ownership and the emotions of failed relationships, these are not unheard of or unfathomable.

But endorsing kidnap as a tactic in a Culture War, that’s just plain evil.

(hat tip Truth Wins Out)

Lisa Miller may have kidnapped little Isabella and fled

Timothy Kincaid

December 29th, 2009

After a long and contentious custody battle between previously civilly united couple Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, a judge has awarded primary custody to Janet Jenkins. Miller was to turn over 6 7 year old Isabella to Jenkins on Friday, January 1, 2010.

Although the couple brought Isabella into the world together with the intention of raising her as theirs, after the separation Miller readopted a conservative religious faith and believed that this entitled her to thwart the law, break visitation agreements, and deny Jenkins her rights.

Miller was encouraged and supported in her decision but the political arm of conservative Christianity, appearing as a victim in Christian press and as a cause for fundraising appeals. Such stories often ignored the facts of the case, instead simply pitting a Born Again Christian against an Evil Homosexual trying to steal an Innocent Child.

But Miller’s bluster has run out. Although she is still appealing decisions, it now appears that courts are not going to find in her favor.

So she has disappeared. (Times Argus)

Miller’s attorneys filed a motion earlier this month asking Cohen to delay his order until an appeal in the Virginia court system — regarding whether that state needed to enforce the Vermont order — was decided.

But in a two-page decision issued by Cohen, the judge said Miller failed to meet the legal burden required to delay the order in part because she has not appeared in court nor spoken with her attorneys about the case for more than a month.

“Ms. Miller has not demonstrated that she is entitled to a stay. … Instead, it appears that Ms. Miller has ceased contact with her attorneys and disappeared with (Isabella). … Such conduct does not show that a stay is warranted,” Cohen wrote.

The whereabouts of Miller couldn’t be determined Monday. Miller’s principal lawyers in Orlando, Fla., could not be reached Monday afternoon.

We will see whether Miller shows up on Friday. Her counsel should advise her that failing to do so will be disastrous to her case. Should she fail to produce Isabella, she will not only be in contempt of court but she will be considered a suspect for kidnap.

Judges are not inclined to find sympathy with scofflaws and kidnappers. And even religious folk may find it challenging to believe that the best interest of the child is to be on the run.

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