Lesbian mom seeks daughter’s return

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Janet Jenkins and Isabella Miller-Jenkins

Janet Jenkins and daughter Isabella last January. – Photo: Courtesy Lambda Legal

A mother snared in an inter-state custody dispute is appealing to the public for help in locating her daughter.

“I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is OK,” said Janet Jenkins.

In November, Jenkins secured a family court order from Vermont that Isabella Miller-Jenkins, 7, be transferred to her custody on Jan. 1. The child is believed to be with her other mother, Lisa Miller.

But the transfer of custody did not take place on New Year’s Day.

Jenkins said she doesn’t know where Isabella or Lisa Miller is, nor do Miller’s attorneys and Isabella’s guardian ad litem.

Jenkins and Miller, joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, had Isabella in 2002. The couple separated and dissolved their union in 2003. At the time, a Vermont court granted temporary custody to Miller, Isabella’s biological mother, and visitation rights to Jenkins. Both women were identified as Isabella’s legal parents.

But Miller moved to Virginia, where she filed a claim seeking to be named Isabella’s sole parent. Miller’s case became a celebrated cause of the Christian right, with the ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel handling the legal work. In a 2008 appeal for public support, Liberty Counsel special attorney Rena Lindevaldsen wrote, “Lisa Miller is one of thousands across this nation who have left the homosexual life through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ,” while Jenkins is “openly living the homosexual lifestyle.”

Jenkins, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, successfully challenged Miller’s petition, arguing that Vermont, not Virginia, was the proper jurisdiction for the custody case.

Eventually courts ordered that custody of Isabella be transferred to Jenkins, finding Miller repeatedly in contempt of court for failing to allow Jenkins’ visitation with her daughter.

Jenkins said, “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.”

“This terrible situation cannot continue. Miller and Isabella must be found and the transfer of custody must take place as the court has ordered,” said Lambda attorney Greg Nevins.

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