Two Moms, One Messy Fight

updated 01/18/2010 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/2010 AT 01:00 AM EST

Though Vermont sanctions same-sex civil unions and Virginia does not, on one point the supreme courts of both states agree: Isabella has two mommies. During their six years together, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins declared their devotion in a civil union, linked their surnames with a hyphen, jointly selected a sperm donor and—after Miller gave birth—raised daughter Isabella Miller-Jenkins to call one woman "Mommy" and the other "Mama."

The couple, who met in an addiction-recovery group, split in 2003, and Miller, 41, moved with Isabella, now 7, from Vermont to Virginia. There, Miller reconnected with the Baptist church, denounced homosexuality as a "sin" and, she told Newsweek in 2008, vowed to protect Isabella from a "lifestyle that's fundamentally wrong." Since then Miller, a teacher, has tried to show that her biological connection to their daughter makes her the sole parent. Courts in both states disagreed, yet Miller flouted visitation orders. Last November a Vermont judge shifted custody to Jenkins, 45, a daycare provider. Soon after, Miller disappeared—with the girl in tow. "I am so worried about Isabella," Jenkins said in a statement on Jan. 4, three days after she was to assume custody. "Please help me find my child."

While Miller now risks charges of parental abduction, Jenkins "doesn't care if Lisa Miller is charged with a crime," says her attorney Sarah Star. "She wants to find her daughter." Miller has remained out of sight, and her lawyer Mathew Staver, declined comment. "My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa," says Jenkins. "I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents."

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