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Vermont court says lesbian child custody dispute governed by state civil unions law

[JURIST] The Vermont Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion] Friday that Vermont civil union laws [Vermont Secretary of State backgrounder] govern a child custody battle between a now-separated lesbian couple who were legally joined in a civil union in Vermont, despite conflicting decisions by Virginia courts. Lisa and Janet Miller-Jenkins lived in Virginia but traveled to Vermont to be joined in a civil union in 2000, and Lisa conceived a child through artificial insemination while the two were still together. The couple subsequently moved to Vermont, but in 2003, they separated with Lisa returning to Virginia and suing for full custody of the child.

A court in Virginia granted full custody [JURIST report] to Lisa in 2004, with the judge declaring that since Virginia law does not legally recognize unions between members of the same sex, Lisa was the child's "sole parent." But the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, saying Vermont has exclusive jurisdiction over the case since the couple's civil union took place under Vermont's laws. The interstate conflicts issue is ripe for consideration [Liberty Counsel press release for Lisa Miller] by the US Supreme Court [official website] as gay rights [JURIST news archive] continue to be evaluated by conflicting state courts. AP has more.

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