Monday, November 30, 2009
by Kilian Melloy
Monday Nov 30, 2009
A long-running custody dispute has culminated in a Vermont judge ordering the former partner of a child’s biological mother to assume custody of the child. The anti-gay Christian press says that the seven-year-old child, Isabella, is a "stranger" to her new custodial parent, Janet Jenkins, and that Isabella had "violent reactions" whenever she was in Jenkins’ care due to her "lesbian lifestyle." But according to lawyer and family court expert Kurt Hughes of Burlington, Vermont, the outcome is typical of certain custodial cases in which one parent repeatedly refuses to abide by a court-ordered custody arrangement.
"Even though it’s hit the headlines because this happens to be a same-sex couple, this is a very basic family law that we’re talking about," Hughes told local news station WCAX, which reported on the case in a Nov. 23 article.
"There’s something called parental alienation syndrome, in which one parent is constantly bad mouthing the other parent," Hughes explained. "And so the courts over the years have decided that the potential long term psychological impact to a child from that type of behavior is much greater than the temporary disruption that would result from a child changing households from one parent to the other." The biological mother, Lisa Miller, has been ordered to relinquish custody of daughter Isabella to Jenkins by the start of the new year. Miller will retain visitation rights. If she does not comply, she may end up in prison.
Vermont Family Court Judge William Cohen ruled that the change of custody was necessary because the dispute had the capacity to harm the child more than a change of custody would. Wrote Judge Cohen, "Ms. Miller’s interference with the relationship between (the child) and Ms. Jenkins have become so pervasive that it now outweighs the potential harm that could occur to the child by a chance of custody."
But to Christian pundits, the case represents a precedent in which the state takes a child from her biological mother in favor of a non-biological former same-sex partner.
Miller’s lawyer, Mat Staver, is also the founder of the right wing--and anti-gay--Liberty Counsel, which has ties to Jerry Falwell’s religious organization. Staver was one of two sources quoted in a Nov. 25 article posted at CitizenLink.com, a Focus on the Family-affiliated Web publication. The other source quoted in the article was a professor at the right-wing Christian Liberty University School of Law.
Said Staver, "This judge in Vermont ultimately ruled that he is going to switch custody from Lisa Miller, and take her own biological daughter Isabella and move her from Virginia and put her into an activist lesbian household up in Vermont with a person she really doesn’t know, who’s not her biological mother, and frankly who’s not acted as a parent."
Staver claimed that Isabella responded negatively to Jenkins’ so-called "lesbian lifestyle," saying, "Every time that the visitation actually occurred, Isabella had violent reactions, because Janet exposed her to the lesbian lifestyle." Staver claimed that Jenkins "tried to convince her that she has two moms and even tried to scare her by saying that she was going to be taken from Lisa and transferred to Vermont."
The article painted Miller’s refusal; to comply with the court-ordered custodial arrangement due to the "violent reactions" that Isabella allegedly exhibited to spending with Jenkins. However Jenkins painted a much different picture, saying, "[M]y daughter completely knows me. We were together ten months ago. I mean, she adores me. She calls me Mama."
The case has raged for six years between the former life partners, who had entered into a civil union together before Miller conceived Isabella via artificial insemination. When their relationship ended, Miller relocated from Vermont to Virginia and became a Baptist.
The custody dispute went all the way to the state supreme court of both states. Vermont’s Supreme Court recognized Jenkins’ parental relationship with Isabella, and the Vermont state Supreme Court found--despite a Virginia law that excludes same-sex families from any legal recognition--that while Miller would receive custody of Isabella, Jenkins would retain visitation rights. It is that arrangement that Judge Cohen’s ruling reversed.
Cohen’s ruling was denounced by Liberty University School of Law professor Rena Lindevaldsen, who told CitizenLink.com, "To have the first reported decision in the country stripping a biological mother of her child, solely because she has refused to give visitation to a legal stranger, is shocking." Added Lindevaldsen, "There’s a lot of talk nowadays about drawing that line in the sand and understanding that government can’t order certain things. When you’re ordering a child to be stripped from her biological mother, you’ve got to wonder, has the court overstepped its bounds?"
Staver cited the case as illustrative of the perils of granting same-sex families full legal recognition, telling Newsweek in a Dec. 6, 2008 article that, "Lisa Miller’s case illustrates two things in regards to same-sex marriages. First, one state cannot adopt same-sex unions without affecting the sister states. It’s simply impossible. Secondly, these cases are about real people, and children are particularly caught in the tangled legal web of same-sex marriage, and Isabella is a classic example."
In that same article, however, Jenkins offered a glimpse into what the case has meant for her. "I did not divorce my child, I divorced my partner," she said. "Yet I’ve missed out on my child’s kindergarten graduation. I’ll never get that back. I don’t even get to talk to my daughter on the phone. It’s heinous what has transpired."
Whether children of same-sex couples are more at risk of such legal entanglement than are children of feuding heterosexual former spouses may be a point of debate. When it does happen that dissolving same-sex unions involve children, however, what holds sway is the very same patchwork of legal rights and status that can change the legal standing of a family’s members from one state to the next simply by crossing a border: while Vermont, where the women lived while together and where Jenkins still resides, now offers marriage equality, Virginia, where Miller relocated, specifically denies any legal recognition of same-sex families at all. Attorney Joseph Price, who represents Jenkins, told Newsweek, "You cannot just shop your case around in different states until you get a ruling in your favor. And that’s essentially what Lisa has tried to do."
In that article, Miller, too, opened up, saying that she had a conversion experience while attending a Baptist church and decided to walk away from her lesbian identity. "I do not feel safe leaving my daughter with her," Miller told Newsweek, referring to Jenkins, "and I believe I have a God-given and constitutional right to raise my child as I see fit." Continued Miller, "There is a homosexual agenda at work here, and Isabella is a pawn in their game. It has nothing to do with the law. Isabella was saved at age 4, loves God, and knows what’s right and what’s wrong. We don’t hate Janet, we pray for her soul and salvation."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
Alec Baldwin says he's quitting showbiz after his "30 Rock" contract is up in 2012.
"I don't have any interest in acting anymore," the two-time Emmy winner from Massapequa, L.I., said in an interview for the upcoming issue of Men's Journal. "Movies are part of my past. It's been 30 years. I'm not young, but I have time to do something else."
Baldwin, 51, has hinted at running for office.
He has one more movie coming out: "It's Complicated," with Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, which opens Christmas Day.
Despite his critically acclaimed 1990s performances in "The Hunt for Red October," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Miami Blues," Baldwin said he has not been a success at acting.
"It's a difficult thing to say, but I believe it: I consider my entire movie career a complete failure. I'll tell you why. The goal of moviemaking is to star in a film where your performance drives the film, and the film is either a soaring critical or commercial success, and I never had that."
He said he tried to quit his NBC show, a favorite of the critics in its fourth season, in 2007 after the humiliation of a nasty voice mail he left for his daughter - he called her a "rude, thoughtless little pig" - being made public.
"I feel the consequences of that every day," he told Men's Journal.
Baldwin, who has warred with ex-wife Kim Basinger over access to his daughter and wrote a book about parental alienation, says he considered suicide at the time. "I was going to put the hose in the most noxious of the cars I own, a Jeep, take some sleeping pills, and take a nice nap in the front seat of my car in the garage," he said.
Baldwin's battles with Basinger also led to a recent breakup with his girlfriend of seven years. "I don't mind," he said. "I'd rather be lonely than wrong."
November 30, 2009
Last week we were jolted with the news that the global warming crisis is a hoax, an ideologically-driven scam based on data that have been routinely doctored, selectively presented, and when necessary, furtively disposed of.
But there's another global disinformation campaign that is still going strong. It's called the Cult of Domestic Violence. This ruse threatens the very foundation of American society: the traditional family.
This past Thursday Catherine Pierce, acting director of the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women, issued a Thanksgiving message — now that sounds comforting, doesn't it?
Ms. Pierce called for "a national conversation about violence against women and teen dating abuse. The Department of Justice will also dedicate this day to talk about ways to end the violence against women and girls that pervades every community in America."
Those sentences contain two very generous helpings of Ms.-Information.
First, domestic violence does not "pervade" every community in America. In fact, among couples in intact, married relationships, partner violence is essentially non-existent. Yes, intimate partner aggression lurks in some corners, but it is concentrated in low-income, substance-abusing couples not connected by the bonds of marriage.
Second, domestic abuse is not limited to violence against women. There is also a substantial level of female-perpetrated violence against men that goes unreported to the police. All the research shows women are equally likely to aggress, whether it's a slap-the-cad rebuke or a teach-you-a-lesson knee to the groin.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control reports 8.9% of adolescent males are victims of dating violence each year, compared to an almost identical number — 8.8% — of adolescent females.
And let's not purge our memory banks of the tragedy of former NFL star quarterback Steve McNair, shot four times in the chest this past July by his ex-girlfriend as he lay asleep.
So how does Ms. Pierce's one-sided Thanksgiving proclamation embrace mean-spirited bigotry?
Because when gobble-gobble statistics are floated before an unsuspecting public, persons begin to believe the lies. Segments of the population become stereotyped and demonized.
Laws are eventually passed that eliminate persons' fundamental civil liberties — just consider all the states that have passed "mandatory arrest" laws that shred Constitutional guarantees of probable-cause. Once a man is saddled with an arrest record, it becomes a cinch to tar him with the abuser label and take away his children.
Just as the global warming religion has come under scrutiny in recent years, a growing number of persons have begun to question the rigid orthodoxy that envelopes the domestic violence industry.
On October 1, President Obama issued a proclamation that highlighted the plight of both male and female survivors of abuse: "Domestic violence touches the lives of Americans of all ages, leaving a devastating impact on women, men, and children of every background and circumstance."
Three weeks later Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) declared on the House floor, "When we think of domestic violence, we think of the women as being the victims. But it's also men victimized as well. Male victims are less likely to report the violence, and seek services due to the stigma associated with being a male victim or not being believed."
And on Tuesday December 1, WETV will be airing its latest installment of Secret Lives of Women. The promo reads, "The fact is however, that more than a third of all DA [domestic abuse] cases feature males as victims, and even that number is considered low due to the relatively low reporting of these cases by men who are ashamed and afraid to do so."
Maybe we should all encourage OVW director Catherine Pierce to tune in: Catherine.Pierce@usdoj.gov . The last thing our families need is half-baked holiday greetings foisted upon us by self-serving government bureaucrats.
© Carey Roberts