BURLINGTON, VT. -
A Vermont woman whose former lesbian partner fled the country with the daughter born while they were joined in a civil union is suing her and a Virginia pastor who helped them flee to Nicaragua.
Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, filed the civil lawsuit Tuesday when a jury was announcing its guilty verdict against Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller, who helped Lisa Miller and daughter Isabella flee.
The Rev. Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., who is not related to Lisa Miller, says he's "willing to accept the consequences" of his actions.
Among the people named in Jenkins' lawsuit is a Virginia businessman who prosecutors say worked with Kenneth Miller to get Lisa Miller and Isabella out of the country. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
The jury issued its verdict against Kenneth Miller after several hours of deliberations in the case, which has drawn broad attention because of the legal and religious questions it raised about same-sex unions and child custody, and because the mother and daughter remain at large.
Miller was charged with aiding in international kidnapping for helping Lisa Miller and Isabella leave the country in September 2009, a month after a judge indicated that he would turn custody of the girl over to Jenkins if she continued to defy a series of visitation orders.
Lisa Miller and Isabella, now 10, were last known to be in Nicaragua.
Prosecutors said that Kenneth Miller arranged for another person to drive Lisa Miller and Isabella from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., where they crossed into Canada and were picked up by an Ontario Mennonite who took them to the airport for a journey to Nicaragua.
After they arrived in the Central American country, the two were apparently cared for by American Mennonites who felt that they needed to protect Isabella from what they considered to be a sinful lesbian lifestyle.
Nicaragua is not a signer of the 1980 Hague convention on international child abductions, which is designed to return children illegally taken from member countries.
Kenneth Miller showed no emotion as the verdict was read and will remain free pending sentencing. About 100 supporters, nearly all dressed in traditional Mennonite clothing, gathered outside the courthouse and sang hymns after the verdict was announced.
Lisa Miller and Jenkins entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2000, shortly after the state became the first to legally recognize same-sex relationships. Miller conceived the child through artificial insemination, and both acted as parents.
Lisa Miller later became an evangelical Christian and renounced her homosexuality. A child-custody case went to Vermont family court in 2004, after the couple dissolved the civil union. Lisa Miller, who moved to Lynchburg, Va., was given primary custody of Isabella, with Jenkins given visitation rights.
Lisa Miller appealed the case for years, but ultimately the courts in Virginia and Vermont determined that the case would be bound by the Vermont family court order.
After defying visitation orders, Miller became a fugitive in 2009 when she disappeared with Isabella. Their whereabouts are unknown to Jenkins.
Charges were dropped in October against an American Mennonite missionary living in Nicaragua, Timothy Miller, who is not related to the other Millers. Prosecutors said that he helped Lisa Miller reach Central America; he cooperated in the case against Kenneth Miller.
In brief but emotional testimony, Jenkins gave an overview of her relationship with Lisa Miller and a history of some of her visits with Isabella between the time the two split up in 2003 and Lisa Miller and the girl left the country Sept. 22, 2009.
Jenkins last saw Isabella in January 2009, and was looking forward to a late September visit.