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Posts for January, 2010

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.

Jenkins gets full custody

Timothy Kincaid

November 23rd, 2009

In 2000, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered a civil union in Vermont. In 2002, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins was born and the family shortly thereafter moved to Vermont to raise little Elizabeth Isabella in an environment that would be supportive of her family.

In the fall of 2003 the couple broke up. They agreed to end the civil union and the court approved the settlement. Janet agreed to pay child support and to visit Isabella regularly.

However, Lisa, who had taken Isabella and moved back to Virginia, fell into an anti-gay religious crowd. She decided that she was no longer a lesbian and that homosexuality was sin and developed hostility to both Janet and “the homosexual lifestyle”.

Then Exodus International stepped in. They got her in contact with Liberty Counsel who immediately made little Isabella’s life a centerpiece for their anti-gay activism.

Since 2004, Miller and Jenkins have been fighting in court over whether Jenkins could have any sort of relationship with her daughter. So far, every decision has ended with the confirmation that Janet Jenkins was entitled to visitation and that Virginia is not going to ignore the terms that the Vermont courts had put in place as a part of the termination of their civil union.

But, at the advice of Liberty Counsel, Miller has sought to thwart the will of the various courts. She simply refused to live up to the visitation terms. Further, she sought to deliberately instill the child with religion-based animus towards Jenkins and even went so far as to accuse her of molestation (social services called the claim “unfounded”).

In August, the Virginia courts opted not to jail Lisa Miller for contempt, but did levy fines of $100 per day for missed visitation. This did not seem to make an impression on Miller. (nvdaily)

“I’m going to continue to take a stand for the Lord, no matter what the cost, because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do,” she said.

But now one judge has had enough. Although Janet Jenkins did not originally request full custody, it appears that this is the only solution that will allow both parents to see the child. (Rutland Herald)

After finding Miller in contempt of court earlier this year for denying Jenkins access to Isabella, Cohen said he decided the only way to ensure the child equal access to both parents was to switch custody.

“The court concludes that it is in the best interest of (Isabella) that Ms. Jenkins exercise parental rights and responsibilities,” the judge said. “This court stated that continued interference by Ms. Miller with the relationship between (Isabella) and Ms. Jenkins could lead to a change of circumstances and outweigh the disruption that would occur if a change of custody were ordered.”

Judge William Cohen determined that this would be in the best interest of Isabella.

The switch in custody is to take place New Years Day. Jenkins has vowed to provide visitation to Miller, even allowing her to take Isabella to church events.

But only a fool would assume that this story is over. With advice from the likes of Liberty Counsel, and a sense of religious entitlement, I would be surprised if Miller complied with the order. And even if she does, Liberty Counsel will only have more fodder for their gimme money letters to supporters so the legal appeals are not likely to end before this poor kid is a teenager.

The Timeline

Miller-Jenkins and the SCOTUS

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2008

You have probably heard of the custody dispute between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins. If you need a refresher, see the timeline at the bottom of this commentary.

This week the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case – for the fifth time.

I’m not an attorney, but considering that Vermont is the court of record and that Virginia now agrees, there may be few legal arguments that could be made. However, the Miller-Jenkins case is a cause célèbre for anti-gay and other conservative activists. And there are many judges, including some who have been considered for the highest court, who would see it their calling and duty to “protect the definition of parent” and deliver this good Christian woman’s poor child from the homosexual clutches of this evil lesbian.

But this court has not taken up her cause. And that does, I believe, offer us some reason for comfort.

A writ of certiorari requires the support of four judges.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia are two judges who have voted consistently in opposition to equality for gay citizens. When Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito were appointed to the court, there was a level of fear within the gay community that they would join Thomas and Scalia in decisions involving gays and lesbians.

However, the denial of the writ suggests that at least one of the four is hesitant to engage in overt judicial activism on behalf of anti-gay activists.

  • December 1997 – Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins meet at an AA meeting in Virginia. They move in together a few months later. They make commitments to each other.
  • July 1, 2000 – Vermont legalizes civil unions.
  • December 19, 2000 – Lisa and Janet travel to Vermont and enter a civil union.
  • July 2001 – Lisa Miller was inseminated with sperm from an anonymous donor. The donor was selected to have traits that matched those of Janet Jenkins.
  • April 16, 2002 – Isabella Ruth Miller Jenkins was born. Jenkins cut the umbilical cord.
  • August 2002 – Lisa, Janet, and Isabella move to Vermont.
  • 2003 – the couple tried further fertility treatments. Lisa did not become pregnant.
  • Fall 2003 – Lisa takes Isabella and leaves Janet, moving back to Virginia. Janet agrees to pay child support and to visit Isabella regularly.
  • November 23, 2003 – Lisa files in Vermont to dissolve the civil union
  • January 2004 – Janet counterclaims in Vermont for custody
  • March 2004 – Lisa hires a lesbian lawyer and waived her objection to Janet as a parent
  • 2004 – Lisa begins finding religion – specifically Baptist religion – and comes to believe that homosexuality is sin and that she is the sole parent of Isabella and that Janet is unrelated.
  • April 23, 2004 – Lisa faxes a letter to her lawyer saying that she did not agree that Janet was a parent to Isabella. The attorney withdrew from the case.
  • May 2004 – Lisa’s new lawyer tried to rebut the presumption that Janet was a parent. The judge refused to agree and insisted on a visitation schedule.
  • Spring 2004 – Exodus International advises Lisa to hire Liberty Counsel. Lisa makes it increasingly difficult for Janet to see Isabella. Lisa recollection of facts becomes significantly different from that of all other parties.
  • July 1, 2004 – Virginia’s anti-gay marriage prohibits the state from recognizing any same sex relationship (including contracts). Lisa’s lawyers sue in Virginia court to declare her the sole parent and to declare the legal actions in Vermont as void, illegal and unenforceable. Judge Prosser stayed unsupervised out-of-state visitation. Lisa refuses to allow Janet to see Isabella.
  • October 15, 2004 – Virginia Judge Prosser declares Lisa the sole parent and invalidates Janet’s claims entirely. Vermont Judge Cohen ruled that Prosser’s order had no legal standing.
  • Winter 2006 – Virginia Court of Appeals (three-judge panel) unanimously sides with Janet Jenkins.
  • August 2006 – Vermont Supreme Court unanimously sides with Janet Jenkins.
  • December 2008 – US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case.
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