In a story we covered back in August, Lisa Ann Miller and Janet Jenkins entered into a same-sex union by marrying in Vermont. Two years after marrying, the couple had a girl. When the girl was 17 months old, Miller left for Virginia with the baby so she could convert to an evangelical Christian. She denounced her lesbianism and did not want the girl, Isabella, to have any contact with Jenkins because of her lifestyle.
Jenkins has argued in legal cases that she should be permitted to see Isabella. Miller hired Mathew Staver to defend her in court. Staver’s argument in the case was that since Miller gave birth to Isabella and moved to Virginia, where civil unions are not recognized, she does not have to abide by Vermont court custody orders.
Miller lost that case and was ordered by a judge in 2009 to surrender custody of Isabella. After that order was issued, Miller and Isabella disappeared and have not been seen since. The two fled to Canada with the help of the Reverend Kenneth Miller, no relation, and then went to Nicaragua.
Now, the Liberty University School of Law, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been named in a civil-racketeering lawsuit filed by Jenkins in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont. The law school has been sued because Staver is the dean of the school, which is affiliated with Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. The church was also named as a defendant in the suit and claims were made that a conspiracy arose to kidnap Isabella and remove her from the United States. Staver is not named in the lawsuit.
“I had no involvement in their departure, had no knowledge that they had departed or intended to depart,” Staver said. “She just disappeared, and we couldn’t reach her anymore.”
Prior to working as the dean of the law school, Staver founded Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel works on cases involving political and religious conservatives. Staver has worked on cases against gay adoption, gay marriage, restrictions on anti-abortion protestors and a ban on religious art on public property.
The lawsuit was filed on the behalf of Jenkins by Sarah Star, a lawyer from Middlebury, Vermont.
“My main objective was to put pressure on people who are continuing to hide Isabella, know where she is and help bring her home,” Star said. “A family’s been torn apart because people believe that gay parents shouldn’t have access to their children or that children should not have access to their gay parents.”