For more than six years (from 2004-2010), I had the privilege of serving as an attorney for Lisa Miller, a Christian mom of now nine-year old Isabella. Lisa found herself in court because of some poor life choices, namely, her decision to enter into a same-sex relationship and then have a child during that relationship. Of course, she never regretted having Isabella but the six year battle to keep custody of her child had its toll on Lisa and Isabella. It also made a lasting impression on me for several reasons, which I’d like to share today.
First, my view of our judiciary will never be the same. Lisa met her former same-sex partner while the two were living in Virginia. After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions, the two traveled to Vermont for a short trip to enter into a civil union, and then returned to Virginia. In Virginia, Lisa became pregnant by artificial insemination and gave birth to Isabella. A few months later, all three moved to Vermont. A year later, the relationship ended and Lisa moved back to Virginia with her daughter. Having become a born-again Christian and wanting to dissolve her civil union, she filed for a “divorce” in Vermont (the only state where the relationship could be dissolved). Her former partner answered the complaint by asking for full custody of Lisa’s child. She didn’t claim that Lisa was anything other than a fit parent; she simply claimed that she was the child’s second mom and deserved custody.
The case should’ve been an easy victory for Lisa for three reasons: first, the civil union wasn’t valid because they were Virginia residents when they traveled to Vermont to enter into a legal union prohibited by Virginia; Vermont law did not treat the former partner as a parent to the child unless she had adopted the child (which she hadn’t); and third, as the child’s fit, biological parent, Lisa, not the former partner, is vested with the fundamental right to direct her child’s upbringing (which includes making decisions about visitation and custody). Shockingly, the Vermont courts “made law” from the bench (expressly stating it was making “law” to address this new situation) and then refused to address Lisa’s constitutional argument. Ignoring the fact that Virginia law prohibited recognition of same-sex relationships and any rights arising out of them, Virginia courts concluded that Virginia was required to enforce the Vermont orders. Sadly, the last Vermont order issued awarded the former partner full custody of Isabella. As many of you know, Lisa didn’t comply with the order and hasn’t been heard from for more than a year now. It’s hard to fathom that our legal system led to this.
Second, I’ve been heartbroken over the efforts to destroy God’s design for family. I’ve been in the courtroom when attorneys argued that marriage as the union of one man and one woman is based on old-fashioned (heterosexist) beliefs that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the home. I’ve read court documents where Lisa’s former partner suggested that Lisa was unfit during the course of the litigation because Lisa believed God had a plan and a purpose for Isabella’s life. I read the transcript where Lisa’s former partner said that she considered it hateful and bigoted to teach that homosexuality is sinful. And I was forced to respond to a motion filed by opposing counsel in Lisa’s case who argued that my quoting the Declaration of Independence in a court document made me unfit to practice law before the court. You see, according to her attorneys, I showed disrespect for the court’s authority when I reminded the court that according to the Declaration of Independence, courts have an obligation to protect a person’s fundamental rights (not strip them of their rights) and that people have an obligation to overthrow government that becomes abusive of our fundamental rights.
Finally, I’m grieved over the apathy of so many Christians. I realize that we all are busy and have to choose our battles but I believe too few Christians truly understand what’s at stake if we don’t fight to preserve God’s design for marriage and family. Significantly, when courts believe that they have authority to declare what by nature is impossible (that a child has two moms or two dads or two moms and a dad) in the name of what a judge thinks is in the child’s best interests, then courts will exercise that same illegitimate authority to tell you that you can’t pray with your child, can’t homeschool your child, must vaccinate your child against sexually transmitted diseases at the age of 10, and have no right to opt your child out of school curriculum that tells children that it is safe and normal to engage in early sexual conduct (same-sex and opposite-sex). We seem to have forgotten what everyone knew generations ago – the mores of society impact all of society.
There are many ways to get involved in this battle (and it truly is a spiritual and physical battle), starting with sincere prayer for the hearts and souls of those struggling with same-sex attractions. You also can get involved with organizations that seek to get the truth out about the fact that people aren’t born “gay” and can choose to resist their same-sex attractions. You can work alongside grassroots organizations that lobby and educate on this issue. And you can partner with legal groups that are defending God’s design for marriage and family. Whatever you do, don’t sit on the sidelines.