Box Turtle Bulletin

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Posts for January, 2010

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.

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.

Non-biological surrogate declared “Mother”

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2010

Those looking for an excuse to justify the kidnapping of little Isabella by Lisa Miller (other than bald bigotry) like to make the distinction that Jenkins isn’t genetically related to Isabella. It will be curious to see if that “reason” holds consistent in another custody case. (New York Times)

A New Jersey judge has ruled that a gestational surrogate who gave birth to twin girls is their legal mother, even though she is not genetically related to them.

In the New Jersey case, the surrogate, Angelia G. Robinson, agreed to have the children in 2006 for her brother, Donald Robinson Hollingsworth, an accountant in Manhattan, and his spouse, Sean Hollingsworth. The embryos were created from anonymous donor eggs and fertilized with sperm from Sean Hollingsworth.

In the language of Ms. Miller, allowing Ms. Robinson rights is like turning the children over to the milkman. But somehow, just somehow, I suspect the sexual orientation of the girls’ fathers might create exceptions in the minds of Miller’s supporters.

Because I very very much doubt that biological connection had much at all to do with the reason they support Lisa Miller in the first place. And arguments seeking to hide that their basis is in anti-gay animus don’t stand up well to principle.

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.”

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.

Federal employee partner benefits bill passes out of Homeland Security Committee

Timothy Kincaid

December 16th, 2009

From the Senate Homeland Security Committee press release:

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday approved a measure that would provide domestic partner benefits to federal employees by a bipartisan 8-1 vote. Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., are original cosponsors of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 bill.

The measure would provide the same employment benefits to federal employees in same-sex domestic partnerships that are now provided to married federal employees and their spouses – such as healthcare, retirement and disability plans, family leave, worker’s compensation, and group life insurance. The same obligations would also apply – such as conflict of interest provisions, anti-nepotism rules, and disclosure requirements.

The bill may not fare well in the full Senate, but this is nevertheless a good sign.

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

Comparing Gay Couples to Straight Couples

Timothy Kincaid

November 4th, 2009

Comparing gay couples to straight couples can be complex. Often it is difficult to define terms such that comparable things are being compared. What is a “couple”, what is a “relationship”?

Those anti-gays who are dishonest (or, let’s charitably say, confused) will compare the gold standard of heterosexual relationships, marriage, to the least committed of casual dating arrangements for gay people and declare that gay relationships are inferior. But little effort is made to define the terms or what qualifies as entry into the category being compared.

In society, we see a distinction between dating and being married. We don’t hold a new boyfriend to the standard we expect from a husband. And even if a man and a woman have been together for three or four years, until they marry we continue to look at such relationships as potential or temporary.

Until vows are said, commitments are not assumed. Once that step – and a significant step it is – has been taken, then family, faith, the community, society, and the law step in to collectively define this relationship as a couple, as two becoming one.

But for our community, we have in most states been denied the opportunity to take the step of marriage. We could not “tie the knot” that binds two into one. We had no couples to present for comparison because we were denied the ability to create such couples.

But change is coming. There are now a handful of states (four, soon to be five) in which the family, faith, the community, society and the law can agree that two men or two women have become a single entity, married.

And although this may be denied by majorities of voters in most of the nation, there are also those same-sex couples that are finding ways to get some of these to come to agreement. Perhaps they will get family and community to recognize their union. Or perhaps their faith and a portion of society – even in our losses, such as Maine, we see that there is a significant portion of society that will recognize such unions. And in some places where the law will not see a union of souls, it will at least acknowledge an administrative equivalency.

And analysis of census data shows that there is now a growing collection of same-sex couples that have found ways of becoming in their hearts, and in the hearts of those most important to them, married. (A/P)

The data from the annual American Community Survey showed that nearly 150,000 same-sex couples in the U.S., or more than one in four, referred to one another as “husband” or “wife,” although UCLA researchers estimate that no more than 32,000 of the couples were legally married.

So we now have a pool of married gays (and “married” gays) to offer up in comparison to married straights. We no longer have to weigh the value of church endorsed, white gowned, pomp and circumstanced heterosexual married bliss against a two month old “open” relationship between two boys who met at a bar.

And how do we compare?

Analysis of commonalities and differences is only in its infancy. We’ve only had for but a few years a measure for comparison. And until very recently, the census taking apparatus which might provided some answers has been banned from even discussing the matter.

But some researchers, such as Gary Gates at UCLA, have been finding ways to tweak the data to yield limited findings. And with the Obama Administration’s willingness to allow access to the data, some information is now coming to light.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, married gays aren’t so very different from married straights.

The [same-sex] couples had an average age of 52 and household incomes of $91,558, while 31 percent were raising children. That compares with an average age of 50, household income of $95,075 and 43 percent raising children for married heterosexual couples.

“It’s intrinsically interesting that same-sex couples who use the term spouses look like opposite-sex married couples even with a characteristic like children,” said Gary Gates, the UCLA demographer who conducted the analysis. “Most proponents of traditional marriage will say that when you allow these couples to marry, you are going to change the fundamental nature of marriage by decoupling it from procreation. Clearly, in the minds of same-sex couples who are marrying or think of themselves as married, you are not decoupling child-rearing from marriage.”

These are but early and surface findings.

And as time goes on, the distinction between “dating” and “partners” and “married” will become less hazy as employers and family court judges and Aunt Matilda will find greater need to know just who is committed and who is not. Ultimately the social need for distinction will outweigh the religion-based objection to recognition and our families, employers, churches, communities, and society will not only allow but demand to know which same-sex couples are in it for the long haul.

And time may reveal that there are strong distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Indeed, how could there not be; each subculture in our society adds its unique perspective to the marital dynamic.

And yet, I suspect that when terms are more firmly defined and a better comparison is made, we will continue to find that we are amazingly similar to our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, and even to those who are convinced that we are peculiar and perverse.

CNN “A ‘Congressional Spouse’ Breaks Barriers”

Daniel Gonzales

October 26th, 2009

(crossposted on ELEMENT, a Denver gay blog I’m paid to write for)

A few days ago I read an article on CNN.com about what life is like for Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and his partner in Congress. Polis’ spouse writes:

Rarely has anyone seen me for what I actually am. I don my “Congressional Spouse” lapel pin proudly and hope each time not to be questioned, yet I still receive sideways glances and orders to produce an official ID. It is as if my story is too unbelievable to be true, that I am an interloper, someone in a place I do not belong.

I believe the focus of the article is supposed to be about brave dear Polis is for shrugging off dirty looks and overcoming stereotypes. Yet, time after time the article mentions a spousal privilege that Polis should be denied because the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and how special exceptions have been made.

The stench of elitist privilege overwhelmed me by the end of this obnoxious article thinking about all the hassles “ordinary” gays get from their government every single day and how that same government pulls aside the velvet rope for Polis.

I don’t see how we can expect leaders, who aren’t subject to the same laws as the employees in their district, to be motivated to change them in a timely fashion.

Montana Supremes Find for Lesbian Parent

Timothy Kincaid

October 7th, 2009

Back in 1995 Barbara Maniaci met Michelle Kulstad and they fell in love. In 1996 Kulstad moved from Seattle to Montana to be with Maniaci and they exchanged rings on March 18, 1996.

As time went on, the ladies decided to bring children into their lives so in 2001 the adopted a little boy. Three years later a little girl came into the family. They participated equally in the parenting of these children.

Now as Montana, their home state, does not allow for same-sex couple adoptions, they decided that Maniaci was the better adoption applicant. This proved to be an unfortunate choice.

in 2006, after a decade together, the couple split up and Maniaci tried to exclude Kulstad from her share of their acquisitions and from access to her children.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Montana found, by a 6 – 1 decision, that Kulstad could not be denied her parental rights. The decision is not all that surprising. But far more interesting are the statements and positions of some people involved.

Dr. Trayce Hansen

First let’s look at one small item in the court’s order. When describing the facts of the proceedings, one thing lept out at me:

The court-appointed expert, Dr. Miller, presented testimony regarding her educational background and her parenting plan evaluation.Kulstad presented testimony by Dr. Silverman and Suzanne Dixon, M.D. (Dr. Dixon). Trayce Hansen, Ph.D. (Dr. Hansen), testified for Maniaci.

Silverman was a court appointee. Miller was a specialist in clinical psychology specializing in the protection of children. Who, though, is Hansen.

Dr. Hansen admitted on cross-examination that parenting evaluations represented a new area for her and that she never actually had prepared one. Dr. Hansen never had been qualified as an expert witness by any court. Dr. Hansen never had been retained by any party as an expert witness. Dr. Hansen’s psychology practice involved geriatric patients. Dr. Hansen conceded that she currently did not work with children and had fewer than four years of professional experience after earning her Ph.D. She had worked as a research assistant and had published one article in the journal Personality Assessment in a forensic-type situation.

Why, then, was Hansen presented as a witness credible enough to attack Dr. Miller and the state’s entire evaluation process? Well, a clue can be found in the words of Attorney Matt McReynolds with the Pacific Justice Institute (Lifesite)

“It’s fairly shocking how the Court wouldn’t allow this person who had left the lesbian lifestyle to be freed from it – her and her children.

“It’s very disturbing that someone who wants to get out of this lifestyle can still be trapped in it for years to come …

Barbara Maniaci – who has since married a man – is apparently ex-gay. So we are not really talking about a child custody dispute; rather, we are talking about another battle in the Great Anti-Gay Culture War in which children are pawns of anti-gay and ex-gay activists.

Maniaci’s was not represented by the highest profile divorce attorneys in Montana; her counsel was the anti-gay activist legal group Alliance Defense Fund. And they selected Hansen as their expert witness. Because while Trayce Hansen may know little to nothing about child psychology, when it comes to anti-gay activism she is no novice.

In June of last year, Dr. Hansen issued a press release breathlessly declaring, “Children raised by openly homosexual parents are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior themselves.” This was a follow up to her ” 5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children.”

What Hansen forgets to reveal in her arguments is that as a research assistant working with geriatric patients, she has no more qualification to make such claims than do I. But, like many anti-gay activists, she’s not above using her title deceptively to achieve her dishonest goals.

The court was not impressed.

The court noted that, contrary to Dr. Hansen’s testimony, the APA concludes that no evidence suggests that same-sex couples are unfit to be parents, or that psychosocial development among children of same-sex couples would be compromised in any respect.

Perhaps that can serve as a warning to anti-gay activists: arguments based solely in animus that are contradicted by evidence do not serve you well in court. Just because you choose to believe your own bogus claims and dubious “studies” does not help you when facing judges that are not blinded by a desire to believe the worst about gay people.

Justice James C. Nelson

Judge Nelson concurred with the findings of the court. But he had a few more things to add to his conclusions.

Sadly, however, this case represents yet another instance in which fellow Montanans, who happen to be lesbian or gay, are forced to battle for their fundamental rights to love who they want, to form intimate associations, to form family relationships, and to have and raise children—all elemental, natural rights that are accorded, presumptively and without thought or hesitation, to heterosexuals.

I stand by my concurring opinion. Unfortunately, though, nothing has changed. I am convinced that until our courts, as a matter of law, accept homosexuals as equal participants with heterosexuals in our society, each person with exactly the same civil and natural rights,
lesbian and gay citizens will continue to suffer homophobic discrimination. Regrettably, this sort of discrimination is both socially acceptable and politically popular.

Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry. And, whether rationalized on the basis of majoritarian morality, partisan ideology, or religious tenets, homophobic discrimination is still bigotry. It cannot be justified; it cannot be legalized; it cannot be constitutionalized.

Amen, Judge.

Justice Jim Rice

Justice Rice has decided that this is all a dispute between the “natural parent” and some “third party” seeking to destroy “the constitutional rights of a natural parent to parent his or her child”.

Because there is something more “natural parenty” about the one partner who was allowed to adopt than there is about the other partner who the state would not allow to co-adopt. Being the one allowed to sign is all that matters to Rice, not whether both parents provided a parental role and their intention was consistently from the beginning to raise the children jointly.

From its emphasis on the facts of this case, it is apparent that the Court has found Kulstad’s case to be factually compelling, as did the District Court, and, thus, has ruled in her favor. But the Court has not acknowledged the significance of the most fundamental facts of this case: Maniaci is a parent, and Kulstad is not.

A legacy of this decision is the legion of parents who will be forced to litigate in order to protect the rights that the Constitution once guaranteed to them. A single parent must now consider whether a new romantic relationship will jeopardize the right to parent her or his children by way of a future third party parenting claim. Other like situations abound.

There will be further consequences as well. This case may well be reported as a legal victory for the rights of same-sex couples. Because both sides have stated that the parties’ gender is not a determinative issue in this case, neither the Court nor this dissent has discussed it. Regardless, the implications of the decision go far beyond the gender of the particular parties at issue here. There are parameters in neither the statute nor this decision that limit the kind or number of parties and relationships that will be now subject to parenting claims. Before this decision, protection of parental constitutional rights, which required termination of a parent’s rights before granting a parental interest to a third party, necessarily, by biology and the adoption laws, limited the number of parents a child could have. However, those inherent limits have now been removed by the Court. Consequently,
what if three or four adult partners develop a “parent-child relationship” with a child? Multiple-party clusters raising children, or polyamorous “families,” are the next wave in societal relationship experimentation.

Ah, yes. If we let the gays be parents then it’s a slippery slope to polygamy. Will someone please think of the children.

Somehow I don’t think Justice Rice will be invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at Justice Nelson’s home.

Growing Up Gay Attending Coastline Bible Church, Day II of IV

"The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else's Mold"

Daniel Gonzales

October 7th, 2009

Here is today’s installment of my series looking at my childhood church’s harmful teachings which ultimately lead me to seek out ex-gay therapy.

Churches like Coastline Bible Church like to present a single model for what makes up an acceptable family — this is generally at the expense of single parent households, other family members raising kids, blended families, unmarried partners, people who remain single or don’t procreate, and of course LGBT folk like me.

Today’s video looks at how the church sends the message to non-conformers like me that I am inferior unless I bend my life to fit their model. As you’ll see bending one’s life to such extreme degrees can result in things breaking.

There’s a term for this attitude, Heterosexism: the presumption that straight two-parent households are superior to all other family life arrangements. And in case you haven’t already heard about it, Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out and a few other groups are having an entire conference about the underlying heterosexism of exgay programs next in Florida called the Anti-Heterosexism Conference.  Of course I’ll be there.

Part I, “What My Church Taught Me About My Sexuality”
Part II, “The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else’s Mold”
Part III, “Distrusting Science When It Doesn’t Agree With Your Faith”
Part IV, “Gender Conformity And Giving In To Peer Pressure”

Adoption Legalized in Germany and Uruguay

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2009

Gay marriage – or some version of partner recognition – are at the front burner of gay rights in the US. And while a few states disallow adoptions by gay couples or individuals, most states – even socially conservative states – allow at least one half of a gay couple to adopt children.

Interestingly, in the rest of the world marriage rights are less of an issue than adoption rights. Many nations that offer some measure of couple recognition to not allow adoption by those gay couples.

But now Germany, which has recognized “Life Partnerships” since 2001, will allow adoption (Lifesite - an anti-gay news source)

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has declared it legal for homosexual partners to adopt children. The court decided in favour of a woman in the southern city of Schweinfurt who wanted to adopt the now three-year-old child of her female partner, with the consent of the father and social services.

Homosexuals were allowed by a 2001 law to register their liaisons as “life partnerships”. Under the law, persons in such legal arrangements are allowed to adopt the biological children of their partners, but the law still prohibits adoption where there is no legal or biological relationship.

And it appears that Uruguay, which has recognized civil unions since 2007, will join them (Herald Sun)

LAWMAKERS in Uruguay have voted to allow adoptions by gays and lesbians in a first for Latin America, an opposition deputy says.

“They just approved it by 40 votes out of 53,” said Jaime Trobo of the opposition National Party today.

There are still formalities, but it is assumed that this will become law.

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