Miller-Jenkins Case Illustrates Need For Equal Marriage Rights and Adoption Rights

Scales of Justice

If you need fodder for the fire of equal rights, same-sex marriage, and speedy adoption rights, you need look no further than Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins.

And if you are a member of our community and you don’t know the horror store of the custody-battle-turned-kidnapping, please take a moment to google “Miller-Jenkins” to let the reality of that real life version of a poorly done Lifetime drama sink in.

The short version (you can read the longer version, too, or an even longer one) is that Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered into a Vermont Civil Union. Lisa Miller gave birth to the couple’s child, Isabella (conceived through artificial insemination). Lisa and Janet broke up, Lisa declared herself heterosexual of the condemning-homosexuality-sort, and a vicious custody dispute ensued.

Ultimately, Ms. Jenkins was successful in establishing her parentage, visitation, and even custody rights.

But now Isabella is missing and though there have been arrests, that probably isn’t much comfort to Ms. Jenkins who hasn’t seen her daughter in months and, worse, doesn’t know where she is.

There are many lessons to be learned here (Was there a parenting agreement? Anything memorializing the couple’s intention vis-à-vis their daughter crafted during happier times?, etc.), and there is plenty of blame to be shared (Liberty Counsel?); but the principle that springs to mind more than any other is this:

If you and yours decide to create a life together, be prepared for that life to be the start that guides you for the rest of yours.

Emily and I are family law attorneys. We do family law for straight people and for gay people. And too often, on both sides of the fence, the worst cases are those where hate and retribution rule.

My heart goes out to Ms. Jenkins. We hope that Ms. Miller is brought to justice. But Emily and I are parents, too.

More than anything, we hope that nine-year-old Isabella is saved from a childhood of manipulation, distortion, and zealotry. Like all children, she deserves better than that.

As always, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your Big Day!

Legally Yours,

Heather & Emily

Photo Credit: © Tmcnem | Dreamstime.com

Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.