Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Really, who's the worse parent here?

Oh, this story has so many potential angles. It starts as a happy love story, as two women commit their lives to each other in a Vermont civil union and then start a family together. With the help of IVF, one of the women gives birth to a child they both will raise. Then it turns to a story of heartbreak as the relationship breaks down. But then it turns into an ugly war story as the women engage in a nasty custody battle that covers two states and spreads to Central America.

Now the case includes international kidnapping, aiding and abetting, claims of religious liberty versus arguments of gay rights, choice of law, and I wouldn't mind throwing in a discussion of Full Faith and Credit.

Some time after giving birth to the couple's child, Lisa Miller found god and renounced homosexuality. She took the child and moved to Virginia, forcing her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to fight in court for access to the child they were both responsible for bringing in to the world. By turning this into a nasty, two state custody battle, these women have proven one thing: same-sex relationships really aren't any different from hetero ones.

After years of legal battles in Vermont and Virginia, Jenkins was granted visitation rights. Miller, though, stopped allowing Jenkins access to the child and went into hiding. Eventually, Miller took the girl through Canada to Nicaragua. Now, a minister accused of helping Miller get the child out of the country is on trial for interference with parental rights. The minister and other members of the Beachy Amish Mennonite sect have allegedly sheltered Miller and helped her keep her child away from Jenkins. Simply because Jenkins is a lesbian and homosexuality is a sin. And I guess somehow it infringes on Miller's religious liberty to expect her to co-parent with a lesbian. Even though her desire to co-parent with a lesbian led to the child being born in the first place.

There are lots of ways to go with this story. But right now, the only thing I can focus on is this: What the hell is the matter with these people? Where on earth did they get the idea that the Christian thing to do is keep a child away from a parent? That it's better to remove a child from the country and force her to live in hiding than to let her be loved?

This is why so many of us responded the way we did to the Chick-fil-A flap. (To be fair, I hadn't gone there in years because I was aware of the company's contributions to causes I disagreed with. Just as I haven't shopped at Hobby Lobby in years. Or eaten Domino's since college.) It's why so many of us fight so hard and get so animated about the issue of gay equality. Because there are people, sadly a lot of people, who think it's a legitimate, respectable view that a straight parent is better than a gay one. Even that gay parents shouldn't get to be parents. Or that a straight parent should do whatever necessary to keep a child away from the gay one in the same way a few famous mothers have kept their children away from fathers they accused of sexual abuse. But being gay is nothing like being a child molester.

At this point, nothing can undo what Lisa Miller has done to her child and to the woman she once pledged to love til death parted them. She has made a very uncomfortable bed for herself and for her child, who is now assured of never having both her parents. Because either she will be kept away from Jenkins or Jenkins will prevail, which will most likely mean that Miller goes to prison. And all this why? Because gays are dirty sinners. And, hey, the laws of this land tell us it's ok to treat them as second-class citizens who can legitimately be ostracized and excluded.

Well, this isn't ok. Lisa Miller and all the people who have helped her should be ashamed. They should be convicted of felonies. It doesn't infringe on Miller's religious liberty for a court to order that Jenkins should have access to her child. It is way past time that we stop treating that as a legitimate argument, that we stop treating matters of legal equality as issues of religious freedom. And if Miller's concern is that she doesn't want her child to be raised by a sinner, maybe she'd better take a long, hard look in the mirror.

1 comment:

BellsforStacy said...

I agree with this sentiment: "What the hell is wrong with these people?"

I started to go into my opinions on the whole grander subject but it's just so exhausting. So I deleted it. The short of it is ... let everyone be married in the eyes of the government (which should have no moral authority whatsoever anyway). But you really can't demand that my church recognize anything. Or an Islamic church, for that matter. Or any other church.

My question is ... what happened? Truly what happened in that relationship and did Jenkins demonstrate some meanness or something? And if not ... did Miller have a break with reality that she suddenly thought breaking about a gazillion laws was the way to go?

I would ALSO point out, however, that this is not just a gay issue. Straight folks that go through IVF and donors and surrogates have very, very similar fights that end in heart breaking ways. Especially for the infertile partner that lead them to IVF in the first place. The laws just aren't really great for protecting unbiological paternity.

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