Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Update: HB 751

A Virginia judge has used our commonwealth's infamous anti-Gay law, HB 751, to invalidate a custody decision in Vermont. With a single master stroke, we've thrown family law -- which has always been little more than what a "family court" claims it is -- into a state of utter higgledy-piggledy.

Here's the press release from Equality Virginia, our rather forlorn GLBT lobby group:


Today, Equality Virginia condemned a decision by the Frederick County Court which ignores a Vermont custody ruling in a dispute between two women who had dissolved their Vermont Civil Union.

"The law is clear: this case never should have left Vermont," said Dyana Mason, Equality Virginia Executive Director. "The judge today got it wrong and seemed willing to dismiss the very real, very powerful bond between a mother and her daughter."

The case is a custody dispute between two lesbian mothers, Janet Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller-Jenkins, who obtained a civil union, had a daughter together, and moved to Vermont. The couple dissolved their civil union in Vermont last year and, in the process, obtained a custody order regarding their daughter.

Lisa Miller-Jenkins, the biological parent, refused to honor the custody order. Rather than respecting the decision, she took the couple's daughter and fled to Virginia. Last month, with the help of two anti-gay groups, Vermont Renewal and the Liberty Counsel, she filed a petition in Frederick County, Virginia, asking the Court to disregard the Vermont court order and to deny Janet any legal claim to parental rights, since the Vermont order was based on a civil union which Lisa's attorneys claim cannot be recognized in Virginia under the new Affirmation of Marriage Act.

"This is one of what I am afraid will be many, many instances in which this anti-gay law will be used to deny gay and lesbian people and their children their most basic human rights--rights enjoyed by every other person in the state," said Joseph Price, Esq, attorney at the Washington, D.C. firm Arent Fox and Janet Miller-Jenkinss attorney. "We will certainly appeal today's ruling and seek justice for Isabella and Janet."

Equality Virginia is actively working to repeal the 'Affirmation of Marriage Act,' and has been organizing a statewide coalition in opposition to this anti-gay law. That coalition, Virginians Stand Up for Equality, has over 125 sponsoring organizations, including churches and businesses, and is currently continuing to build grassroots support, educate the public on the implications of HB 751 statewide, and to mount legal challenges to the law. In addition, EV is seeking gay and lesbian Virginians who have been harmed by HB 751 to act as potential plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the legislation.

"This is the first time someone tried to use the so-called 'Marriage Affirmation Act' against hard-working, tax-paying Virginians. Unfortunately, it won't be the last," said Mason. "Equality Virginia will work tirelessly to defend against these attacks and to challenge the constitutionality of this law."

Updates: McGreevey

When I wrote about Jim McGreevey's "coming out," I operated on the assumption that the principals involved in the case were generally honorable people, and that McGreevey's resignation was the sort of tragic catastrophe that often occurs when well-intentioned souls try to do the right thing by themselves and each other. In short, I thought this story was pretty much like the Michael Huffington brouhaha from a few years back: Within a few years, Huffington had come out of the closet, quietly divorced his wife, retired from political office, and taken a cozy, backseat role at the Human Rights Campaign. I believed that McGreevey would follow a similar course -- and more than that, I truly hoped that after he put his house in order, so to speak, he could work with (or for) some middle-of-the-road Gay-rights group.

Boy, did I get that one wrong.

You see, gentle reader, I managed to forget that McGreevey is a New Jersey Democrat. It appears that, like Robert Torricelli and others of his ilk, McGreevey led an administration so rife with deceit and corruption that the mind boggles.

Now we need only stand back and watch the accusations fly.

Updates: Drama at Ash Lawn

Rebecca Rizzo, who played the title role in Ash Lawn Opera's rather dismal production of Annie, writes to tell me she had a sinus infection on the night I saw her perform. That would explain the vocal trouble I heard.

Not knowing about the infection, I feared that Rizzo's attempts to sound like a twelve-year-old Broadway belter were injuring her voice, as they very easily could have done. I've seen too many promising singers ruined for life when they took on a role that was not suited to their talents. One more example would have broken my heart.

So I'm relieved to hear that my initial fears were mistaken, and I wish Rizzo a long and successful career. All the same, I hope she doesn't have to play Annie again. One stint in that role should be enough for anyone.

Update (9/6/04): A loyal reader weighs in with the following "rules for actors."

1. Never read your reviews.
2. Never write your reviewers.

These are wise precepts, to be sure. But as is true for most wise precepts, they're easier said than done.

For my part, I was pleased to receive Ms. Rizzo's correspondence. Not all performers are so generous to critics, and I suppose most critics -- including myself -- aren't as generous as we should be toward performers.

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