Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Conflicting Rulings on Vermont Same-Sex Union Case Argued Today At The Virginia Court of Appeals

--The cases pit two states against each other and implicate the Federal DOMA

Today at 10:00 a.m. in Richmond, Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals will hear oral argument on a case that pits Vermont’s same-sex civil union law against the laws of Virginia, which preserve marriage as one man and one woman. The Vermont Supreme Court heard arguments on the same case last week. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel, represent Lisa Miller in both cases.

The cases involve Lisa Miller, her biological child, and Janet Jenkins. Lisa and Janet traveled to Vermont to obtain a civil union while living in Virginia. 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 any 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).

The Miller v. Jenkins case is unique because it represents the first time that the courts of two states have issued conflicting decisions over the same same-sex union case. It is also the first case to involve dueling federal laws. If the rulings of both courts continue to conflict after the courts issue their decisions later this year, then this case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has the right to define its own marriage policy. In Virginia, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Traditional marriage is the bedrock of society. The state of Virginia has a right to guard its borders to uphold the family and marriage. The people also have a right to amend their state and federal constitutions to protect the family and marriage.