In custody battle between two mommies, little girl is lost

By Petula Dvorak
Friday, January 8, 2010

Really, we shouldn't be writing about Isabella.

She is in the middle of a custody dispute, just like thousands of children torn between adults who don't want to be with each other anymore.

But the 7-year-old has made national headlines because the sparring adults are two women.

Now a court case between the grown-ups involves two states, countless courts, police departments, a battalion of special interest groups, a phalanx of lawyers and thousands of people taking sides in online groups.

It's a passion play of soured love between two people that has become a battle for anti-gay, religious conservatives. The biggest victim in all of this will surely be the little girl with long hair and an online history not shared by her playground friends.

A little girl who has gone missing.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were in their 30s when they met in Virginia, moved to Vermont, were joined in a civil union in 2000, bought a house and had a kid two years later.

As many gay folks will tell you, moves like this aren't spontaneous, crazy or happy-go-lucky. Legal issues, paperwork, money, explanations to parents, doctor appointments, fertility treatments and insemination attempts make having a child a considered and costly process.

But after going through all that and parenting the child for a year and a half, Miller and Jenkins split. Miller, who gave birth to Isabella, got primary custody and moved back to Virginia. Jenkins stayed in Vermont, and the supreme courts of both states treated it like a ho-hum breakup. There would be regular visits, child support payments and so forth.

After taking the cash and sending homemade cookies and cards to Isabella's other mommy for some time, Miller apparently conked herself on the head and decided that her whole lesbian life had been a big mistake. She began going to a conservative, evangelical church and had declared herself a born-again Christian.

She simply wanted to erase it all, make the past go away. She decided Jenkins was not the other mommy, homosexuality is wrong and the lovely old folks they'd been visiting and calling "mom-mom" and "pop-pop" (Jenkins's parents) couldn't contact the little girl they treated as their granddaughter.

This went on for years. Jenkins would drive down to Virginia, wait at her parents' house for the court-ordered visit, holding unopened Christmas and birthday gifts. Miller and Isabella would rarely show up.

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