Kicking A Lion

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Posts Tagged ‘vermont

Justices won’t hear Miller’s visitation request

WINCHESTER — For the fifth time, the Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear Lisa Miller’s attempt to prevent her former civil-union partner from having visitation rights with her daughter.

Miller had asked the justices to overturn rulings from the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals allowing visitation with her child by her former partner.

Miller, who lives in Frederick County, also sought to overturn a Vermont appellate court ruling, which held that Vermont had jurisdiction over the case and Virginia must honor its decision to allow visitation.

Miller and her former partner Janet Jenkins entered a legally recognized civil union in 2000 in Vermont.

The couple decided that Miller would use artificial insemination with an anonymous donor to have a child, and Isabella was born in Virginia in April 2002.

The two women subsequently moved back to Vermont with Isabella, but separated after a year of cohabitation. Miller renounced her homosexuality and returned to Virginia with Isabella.

She denied Jenkins’ request for visitation rights, which led to a series of legal challenges from Jenkins in Vermont and Virginia, with courts in each state issuing sometimes conflicting rulings.

Virginia does not recognize the legality of civil unions, so its courts tended to side with Miller. Vermont, which allows civil unions, sided with Jenkins.

Miller had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would settle the issue, but the justices declined to hear her arguments on four occasions.

Jenkins appeared to have prevailed in August, when Frederick County Circuit Court Judge John R. Prosser dismissed efforts by Miller to deny Jenkins the right to visit Isabella.

Prosser sent the case back to the Frederick County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for enforcement of a visitation order handed down by a court in Vermont.

Miller then took her case to the Supreme Court for a fifth time, but the justices again refused to hear her appeal.

Monday’s legal decision was welcomed by Jenkins’ supporters.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision,” ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis said in a press release. “With both Virginia and Vermont courts agreeing that Vermont has jurisdiction, there is clearly no need for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.”

Rebecca Glenberg, the ACLU of Virginia’s legal director, said the Virginia courts had simply moved to recognize the decisions of Vermont, just as they would have expected other states to respect decisions made in Virginia courts.

“Lisa Miller does not get to cherry-pick her courts to suit her liking,” Glenberg said through the ACLU press release. “Simply because she did not like the Vermont court’s decision does not allow her to try to get a more favorable ruling from another state.”

Federal law stipulates that one state court may not interfere with a custody proceeding in another state.

Jenkins is being represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund of Atlanta, as well as the ACLU of Virginia.

Miller is represented by the nonprofit Liberty Counsel, a public-interest law firm and religious ministry that provides free legal assistance in defense of Christian liberty.

The Liberty Counsel is based in Orlando, Fla., but has a strong connection with Liberty University in Lynchburg. Founder and Chairman Mathew D. Staver is the dean of the Virginia university’s Jesse Helms School of Law.

Staver was unavailable for comment Monday evening.

He said previously that Miller would continue to appeal her case, contending that the Virginia courts should not enforce Vermont’s custody orders because of the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages and the legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.

–Drew Houff

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Written by kickingalion

December 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm

All Vermonters deserve equal rights

All Vermonters deserve equal rights

December 1, 2008

Open letter to Gov. Jim Douglas: During the last two weeks, the emerging battleground in the fight for gay marriage and equal rights has become our state and our legislature. I applaud and support Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor) for his work to prepare and to introduce a gay marriage bill that will provide full marriage rights to Vermont same-sex couples where the civil union bill of 2000 has fallen short and has kept gay and lesbian relationships separate and unequal.

With this particular issue even more of a political landmine following this month’s national elections, I am proud to have a member of the legislative leadership who is bringing Vermont back to the forefront of progressive politics and progressive thinking in this country.

I am, however, surprised by the politicking that is being demonstrated by you, sir. Fresh off your re-election to a fourth term, you have already drawn the line before hearing any formal argument, before reading any bill or legislation and you are seemingly oblivious to 58 percent of Vermonters who have been polled and have indicated they support or lean towards supporting gay marriage for same-sex couples. This is clearly one more example of how out of touch you are with Vermonters.

I am disappointed how you are trying to sidestep the most important issue in this country right now with your claims that lawmakers in the Legislature should solely focus on solving the economic downturn that it appears your policies have created during your previous three terms.

Your misleading statements have made Vermonters believe that the House and Senate can only handle one issue at a time and has made lawmakers feel that supporting a gay marriage bill will make citizens suffering from economic strains become more impatient with the Legislature for focusing on “other issues.” Civil rights should never be put to the side of the table, just as no other policy or legislation should be placed above legally granting God-given human rights to the people of this state.

The people who discriminate against me without even knowing me or those who are like me, they have lowered me to their level. Their hate has made me hate; hate their intolerance, their bigotry. I don’t believe that you “hate” the LGBT community but I feel as if you are ignoring us by wanting to focus solely on the economy of the state. I am not a second-class citizen, Gov. Douglas. I am who I am and I am proud. I am gay and first and foremost and most importantly, I am a human being.

The one place that I’ve finally felt comfortable and accepted is now threatened, not just by votes cast in other states, but now by the pen in your hand. All of us; gay, straight, lesbian, and transgendered are all threatened by these decisions.

If one group of people are discriminated against for being different, then all people can be and will continue to be discriminated against, for we are all unique, but we are more similar than different. It’s easier for some to highlight and magnify the differences than to acknowledge and accept the obvious similarities.

We all are human; we all love, we all feel. We all are equal in God’s eyes, and the divisions between us are man-made.

A higher law above that of any state or federal Constitution has already commanded freedom and inalienable human rights for us all, regardless of sexual orientation, and yet some believe that they have the authority to say to whom they apply. As if to say our relationships, our love, our lives, are any less meaningful that that shared between a man and woman. Compromises were once made, and separate rights were a stepping stone, but separate is never equal, and not morally just.

I have personally never voted for you simply because your views and opinions have honestly never matched with mine, but I still hold a level of respect for all my state’s elected officials regardless of whether I voted for them or not.

Gov. Douglas, your statements have lowered my level of respect for you. I grew up believing that regardless of parties and affiliations, all Vermont politicians were different than the elected officials of larger cities and states that say one thing before election day and do another and after winning office.

But now you have taken back a campaign promise that I heard this fall. I heard you numerous times during the debates and on your television ads saying you wanted to “improve the quality of life for all Vermonters.” If you truly wanted to increase the quality of life for all Vermonters, why won’t you grant all Vermonters equal rights and end the discrimination and separation happening right inside our Green Mountains?

The lawmakers in the Legislature can multitask, governor. Let them. Vermonters are calling for equality in marriage and a gay marriage bill can be a top priority and the economy doesn’t need to be shifted into second place. You know this. Vermonters know this and their voices are clear. Listen and make the right decision Gov. Douglas, the choice is yours.

CHRISTOPHER M. WARD

Winooski

Written by kickingalion

December 1, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Vermont legislator plans push for gay marriage

Vermont legislator plans push for gay marriage

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont legislator plans to introduce a bill to allow gay marriage in the state that first approved civil unions for same-sex couples.

State Sen. John Campbell, a Democrat, says he will sponsor the bill in the legislative session beginning in January. He acknowledges it is unlikely to gain ground unless Gov. Jim Douglas signals support.

The Republican governor said Thursday that the civil union law is sufficient but wouldn’t say whether he would veto a gay-marriage bill.

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. California voters recently overturned a ruling allowing the practice there.

Several other states sanction domestic partnerships or civil unions. Vermont became the first state to do so, in 2000.

Written by kickingalion

November 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

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