From the Equality Virginia press release:
Joseph R. Price of Arent Fox LLP, Washington, the lead attorney in the case representing Janet Jenkins, said, “This decision is fully consistent with Virginia, Vermont and Federal law relating to child custody disputes, and respects the requirements of the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. The decision means that gay and lesbian parents can expect they will be treated just like any other parents in a custody dispute, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
For background on Miller v. Jenkins, see Equality Virginia’s FAQ.
Readers may recall that Lisa Miller’s court action seeking to dissolve her former spouse’s parental rights was filed the day after Delegate Bob Marshall’s “Affirmation of Marriage Act” went into effect. This case was intended to test the parameters of that law, and the the Frederick County judge openly affirmed the arguments of Marshall and the anti-gay organizations backing Lisa Miller. In rendering his opinion that Virginia was not obligated to honor the custody decision of another state’s court that recognizes the legal status of same sex relationships, he opined that “this is clearly what the law was intended to do.” The ruling was called in a Washington Post editorial at the time “legally flawed and morally reprehensible.”
And now it’s irrelevant and defunct, as well. Marshall (in his own words, “Virginia’s Chief Homophobe,” and “the Last Crusader”) admitted during the campaign for his eponymous and even more morally reprehensible “marriage” amendment that these campaigns are not about marriage at all, but are rather directed at discouraging GLBT people from living openly and with integrity (thereby – he hopes – slowing down the rapid decline of anti-gay bias in mainstream public opinion). He has proudly declared that the intention behind such legislation is to encourage the filing of test cases in order to generate the kind of judicial activism we saw in the 2004 Frederick County ruling. “That’s why I introduced the bill,” he said.
So, it seems that Marshall has won the battle and lost the war. While there may be ugly amendments defacing several of our state constitutions, GLBT people continue to live our lives openly, raise our families, share our stories with our neighbors, employers and legislators, and yes, fall in love and get married. June 5 marked the fifth anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, and Lambda Legal hosted a reception and roundtable discussion on the current state of Sexuality, Liberty and the Constitution; the impressive panel included Paul Smith, who argued Lawrence before the Supreme Court, and Mandy Carter of the National Black Justice Coalition.
A couple of remarks by panelists particularly stand out in the context of this post. One, that five years after the ruling, we are only now beginning to see the first effects of Lawrence; and two, that progress is driven by setbacks. The Virginia amendment was certainly a setback, and there will be others; but it also creates the conditions that will be its own undoing. By all means, let’s put things like the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause to the test – and while we’re at it, let’s take a good hard look at what people like Marshall really mean when they speak of “religious liberty.”
Marshall, et al, was successful in keeping a little girl apart from one of her moms for several years, if you can consider that “winning” something. But to do so would require a depth of moral poverty I am unwilling to contemplate.