Miller v. Jenkins

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Miller v. Jenkins (previously called Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins), 912 A.2d 951 (2006), 637 S.E.2d 330 (2006), 661 S.E.2d 822 (2008), 78 S.E.2d 268 (2009) 12 A.3d 768 (2010), 131 S.Ct. 568 (2010) is a series of related cases in the Virginia Supreme Court and the Vermont Supreme Court pertaining to child custody of Isabella Miller-Jenkins between former lesbian couple Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins after they dissolved their civil union in Vermont. The protracted custody battle resulted in substantial media attention and an international parental kidnapping investigation after Miller failed to comply with court-ordered visitation for Jenkins.[1]


In 2000, two women, Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller of Rutland, Vermont, entered into a civil union in Vermont following the passage of civil union legislation earlier that year. Each changed her surname to Miller-Jenkins. In 2002, Lisa gave birth to a child conceived through artificial insemination, whom the couple named Isabella Miller-Jenkins. The couple separated in 2003, due to Miller accusing Jenkins of exposing Isabella to sexually explicit material, and possible sexual abuse. This triggered a protracted legal battle over the custody of Isabella.[2]

Vermont case[edit]

In the civil union dissolution proceedings, primary custody of Isabella was granted to Miller as Miller was her biological mother, while Jenkins was granted visitation rights. Miller subsequently moved to Virginia, which does not recognize civil unions, and denied attempts by Jenkins to visit Isabella. Miller further stated that she had become a Christian and was no longer a lesbian.

Virginia case[edit]

In July 2004, Miller requested and received a court order in Virginia court declaring her Isabella's sole legal parent. Jenkins appealed in November, arguing on the basis of the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act that the Virginia courts were obligated to comply with the rulings in Vermont family court. The Supreme Court of Virginia agreed and in November 2006 ordered that Jenkins be provided with visitation rights.

For the next three years, Miller consistently failed to comply with visitation orders and in November 2009, Vermont ordered that sole custody of Isabella be given to Jenkins, with transportation occurring on January 1, 2010. Neither Miller nor Isabella appeared at the court-ordered time.[3]

Federal case[edit]

In 2010, Miller petitioned for a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court. The Court declined to hear the case on November 8.[4]

Parental kidnapping investigation[edit]

In April 2011, the FBI arrested Timothy Miller, a Mennonite pastor of no relation to Lisa, and charged him with assisting with the international kidnapping of Isabella. The FBI alleged that Timothy had left a digital trail of himself and other Mennonite missionaries discussing Lisa's situation and her desire to flee the United States and that his mother-in-law's credit card was used to purchase tickets for Lisa and Isabella to fly to El Salvador and thereafter to Nicaragua, where Timothy and his wife had served as missionaries previously.[5]

Timothy pleaded not guilty to the charges and requested that the charges be moved from the district court for Vermont to the district court for Western Virginia on the basis that this is where the alleged crime would have been committed. He also requested that his statements to investigators be excluded from the evidence as he was not read his Miranda rights.[6]

In October of the same year, the FBI dropped its charges against Timothy as he began cooperating with the investigation.[7]

In December, Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa nor Timothy) was arrested and charged with aiding the kidnapping based on evidence obtained from Timothy.[8] Jury selection began for that trial in August 2012,[9][10] and gained additional notoriety when commentator Bryan Fischer wrote on Twitter in support of kidnapping of children from same-sex households and smuggling them to what he calls "normal" homes.[11][12][13] Fischer also reiterated his views on video.[11][14]

Kenneth was found guilty on August 14, 2012 of aiding in international parental kidnapping of a minor, after jury deliberations lasting a few hours. He faced a sentence of up to three years.[15] He was sentenced on March 4, 2013 to a term of 27 months imprisonment, with the sentence staying pending appeal.[16] On December 16, 2015, the Second Circuit affirmed his conviction.[17]

The day after Kenneth Miller was convicted, Jenkins filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act suit against Lisa Miller, Kenneth Miller and several others who allegedly helped Lisa Miller flee the country. Among the defendants were various ministries founded by the late Jerry Falwell, including Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University School of Law.[18] On October 24, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Vermont dismissed the RICO claims, but let stand claims for a conspiracy to commit an intentional tort of kidnapping and to deprive Janet of civil rights. The complaint was dismissed without prejudice as to some defendants because they had insufficient contact with Vermont. Order on motions to dismiss, docket entry 115, Case No. 2:12-cv-184 (U.S.D.C. Vt.)

Artistic Portrayal[edit]

The case is the subject of the play SHE SAID/SHE SAID written by Rebecca Gingrich-Jones. Gingrich-Jones wrote the play as a project for her Master's Thesis at the Catholic University. Gingrich-Jones is the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's half-sister Candace Gingrich-Jones.[19]


  1. ^ "Miller v. Jenkins - About the Case". American Civil Liberties Union. January 4, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  2. ^ Riordan, Kathy (December 30, 2009). "The Strange, Sad Case of Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins". Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  3. ^ "Miller v. Jenkins (formerly known as Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins)". Lambda Legal. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  4. ^ Supreme Court of the United States of America (November 8, 2010). "Lisa MILLER, petitioner, v. Janet JENKINS". Google Scholar. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  5. ^ Hopper, Jessica (September 13, 2011). "Christian Network Implicated in Parental Kidnapping Involving Lesbian Partner". ABC News. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  6. ^ Rathke, Lisa (September 13, 2011). "Missionary wants parental-kidnap trial moved". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  7. ^ "Kidnapping Charge Dropped in Lesbian Custody Case". The Advocate. October 31, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  8. ^ U.S. Attorney's Office (December 6, 2011). "Kenneth L. Miller Arrested for Aiding International Parental Kidnapping". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  9. ^ "Trial nears in Vt. civil-union child custody case". Fox News. August 5, 2012. Associated Press.
  10. ^ McLure, Jason (August 6, 2012). "Mennonite minister faces trial in lesbian child custody case". Chicago Tribune. Reuters. Archived from the original on August 8, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Edwards, David (August 8, 2012). "Fischer calls for ‘Underground Railroad’ to kidnap children of LGBT parents". Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  12. ^ "Bryan Fischer Calls For 'Underground Railroad' Kidnapping To Save Gay Parents' Children". August 8, 2012.
  13. ^ @BryanFischer (August 5, 2012) "Only way to keep your own kids out of same-sex homes: use the Underground Railroad. Straights = slaves. [1] [2]
    (August 7, 2012). "Head of Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households goes on trial." story Archived August 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
    (August 7, 2012). "Why we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households: story.
  14. ^ Mantyla, Kyle (August 9, 2012). "Fischer Says Ex-Gay Mom had an Obligation to God to Kidnap Her Daughter and Flee". Right Wing Watch. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  15. ^ AP, Reuters and Raftery, Isolde (August 14, 2012). "Mennonite pastor convicted of helping mom Lisa Miller flee to Nicaragua with daughter". Retrieved 2012-08-14.
  16. ^ Eckholm, Erik (March 4, 2013). "Kenneth Miller Sentenced for Aiding in Parental Kidnapping". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  17. ^ "United States v. Miller" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  18. ^ Israel, Josh. "Mother Of Kidnapped Daughter Files Racketeering Suit Against Liberty University Law School". Think Progress August 15, 2012.
  19. ^ "First Draft to Present SHE SAID/SHE SAID, 9/13 & 20". Broadway World. September 13, 2011.