Vermont Civil Union Rejected by Virginia Judge

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Virginia Judge Rejects Registration of Vermont Civil Union Order

(Winchester, VA) – In the case of Miller v. Jenkins, Virginia Circuit Court Judge John R. Prosser ruled on 3/13/06 that a Vermont civil union may not be registered in the state because the laws of Virginia do not permit civil unions or same-sex marriage. Lisa Miller is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel of Liberty Counsel and adjunct professor of law at Liberty University School of Law.

The case involves Lisa Miller, her biological child, and Janet Jenkins. In December 2000, Lisa and Janet, while living in Virginia, obtained a civil union in Vermont. Lisa gave birth to a child through artificial insemination. Janet never adopted the child. The relationship ended when Lisa became a Christian and Janet became abusive. Lisa is no longer a lesbian. She resides with her daughter in Virginia. A Vermont court awarded Janet “parent-child” contact and visitation. A Virginia court declared Lisa to be the sole parent and ruled that the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act barred recognition of civil unions. In addition to state law, the cases involve the application of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (which requires courts to recognize out-of-state custody and visitation orders) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which allows states to reject out-of-state, same-sex unions and any rights from that relationship).

While the simultaneous appeals of the Miller v. Jenkins case remain pending at the Vermont Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals, Janet tried to register in Virginia the Vermont trial court order which granted her “parent-child” contact and visitation. Registration is the first step to enforce an out-of-state visitation order in Virginia. Although acknowledging that the Vermont order could not be enforced while the appeals were pending, Domestic Relations Judge William Sharp registered the Vermont order anyway. Appealing the registration to the Circuit Court, Judge Prosser has now ruled that the registration of the Vermont order was impermissible since Virginia does not recognize a Vermont civil union. The Vermont order must now be removed from the court registry.

The two separate appeals of Miller v. Jenkins remain pending at the Vermont Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals. These cases pit the laws of Vermont and Virginia and two federal laws against each other.

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated, “We are pleased the court ruled that a Vermont civil union has no legal validity in Virginia. Unless the federal Constitution is amended to protect traditional marriage, same-sex marriage advocates will continue using the courts to force their agenda on the rest of the country. The definition of marriage is not for judges to decide. It must be decided by the people. It must be uniform. When the people speak on this issue, they overwhelmingly choose marriage as one man and one woman.”

Liberty Counsel can be reached in Orlando, Florida at 800-671-1776

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