News (USA)

Pastor held in custody for refusing to testify in same-sex custody dispute

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A Vermont federal judge has ordered a pastor to be held in custody after the man refused to answer grand jury questions about his role in helping a woman and her daughter flee the country in a same-sex custody case.

Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., was ordered held for one week to see if he would change his mind.

Kenneth Miller

U.S. District Judge William Sessions said Thursday he was reluctant to order Miller held, but that he had no choice because Miller’s testimony is crucial to the criminal justice system.

Miller, a Mennonite minister, said his deeply held religious beliefs prevent him from answering questions.

Miller was convicted last year of charges he helped a woman and daughter flee rather than share custody of the child with her former lesbian partner in Vermont.

According to federal prosecutors, Miller helped orchestrate Lisa Miller’s flight to Canada and ultimately to Nicaragua in 2009, despite court orders from family courts in both Vermont and Virginia that ordered Ms. Miller to honor visitation and custody orders with her former partner, Janet Jenkins.

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Jenkins and Lisa Miller were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000. Two years later, after in vitro fertilization, Miller gave birth to their daughter, Isabella.

After embracing conservative Christian ideals, Lisa Miller eventually renounced homosexuality; she filed to dissolve the union with Jenkins in 2003, and although she gained custody of Isabella, a Vermont court gave Jenkins visitation rights.

Two months after Lisa Miller fled the country, a Vermont family court judge transferred custody of Isabella to Jenkins.

Lisa Miller and Isabella are believed to be in Nicaragua.

(The two Millers are not related.)

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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