Discrimination | Vermont

Lesbian Couple Suing Vermont Town For Trying to Drive Them Out: VIDEO

Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno

Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno have been together for 21 years and have lived at their lakefront property in Addison, Vermont for 10. However, residents of the town have never fully welcomed the Barbaras, many of them instead treating them with outright hostility, including insults, obscene gestures, and even dead animals left on the property. 

In addition, the couple believes that the town leadership tried to push them out via a variety of measures, including a town clerk refusing to file a mandatory application for the handicap ramp Supeno put in for her mother; failing to notify the couple of zoning meetings regarding their property; and a refusal to respond to filed grievances by the couple. It should be noted that the value of their property has more than tripled since they moved in.

To top it all off they've been the victims of anonymous bullies who would circulate false letters claiming the women were scam artists, and homophobic slurs spray painted outside the town offices.

Ernst and Supeno responded to the continued harassment with a lawsuit. In the lawsuit the complaints being named are defamation, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with prospective business relations, sexual orientation discrimination, common law retaliation and violations of common benefits clause. The defendant named for the suit is board chair Jeff Kaufmann, who is Addison’s zoning and planning administrator and, notably, is a Baptist minister.

Watch WPTZ's news report on the couple, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Odd. That's right in our county and we don't know them. Not surprising the property value has gone up, though.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Mar 7, 2014 7:24:30 PM

  2. The fact that so many situations and incidents of this sort occur in supposedly "gay-friendly" states just underscores how shallow the political victories in those states really are....and that, cultural change--the kind that really matters in the long run--has only been marginally greater in such areas as it has been in more conservative areas in the Heartland.

    Just this past week, we have seen stories of beatings in Minnesota and New York City....and this story from Vermont....at the same time that we see Kentucky's AG refusing to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage and towns in Mississippi passing pro-gay ordinances.

    Laws are ultimately worthless to us, absent cultural change.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 7, 2014 7:26:21 PM

  3. Tough case to prove. I wish them luck.

    Posted by: enchantra | Mar 7, 2014 7:27:54 PM

  4. A reason why I have no faith or trust in religion, whatsoever.

    Posted by: Colin | Mar 7, 2014 7:31:03 PM

  5. "laws are worthless to us"???? Laws are what allow this couple to seek redress to their wrongs! Laws are ESSENTIAL to us!

    Posted by: Mark | Mar 7, 2014 7:37:04 PM

  6. You are missing the point, Mark. They would not need to seek redress if their neighbors in oh-so-enlightened Vermont had actually changed their attitudes at the personal level (as opposed to voting "the right way").

    I don't doubt for a minute that if you questioned most of the people in this community, they would say all the right things when it comes to "gay rights"--but they still despise gay people on a personal level.

    And what have you really gained if you win a lawsuit if your neighbors still hate you?

    Nothing, really. That is the point.

    Posted by: Rick | Mar 7, 2014 7:43:54 PM

  7. Leap in logic, Rick, as usual. Alleged incidents from one couple have no particularly larger implications other than that they may have lousy, possibly homophobic neighbors. On the other hand, it's very well established that gay-favorable laws make for gay-favorable environments and vice versa. (Though, for those who aren't out, gay-favorable laws are only indirectly beneficial--the closeted can, in fact, feel threatened by being left behind.)

    I live a short distance away from this couple. I've never heard of them and have no idea whether their lawsuit has merit. But it doesn't reflect my experience as an out gay person in an out gay couple in VT at all. We feel welcomed everywhere and very supported by our state and our neighbors alike.

    Of course there are homophobes--and bad neighbors--in VT, as there are anywhere else, but the broad forms of harassment and discrimination they're describing seem very out of character for my neck of the woods.

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 7, 2014 7:44:20 PM

  8. The head of the Select Board is apparently also a Baptist pastor of a church who believes in the "unchanging truths from the Bible"--a rarity in VT, thats for sure--so the plot thickens, and the potential for animosity suddenly makes more sense. Some people are beyond changes of attitude no matter where they live.

    Oh, poor isolated Rick, if you can't understand the real benefits of pro-gay laws and a pro-gay justice system, then you really can't understand anything.

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 7, 2014 8:20:25 PM

  9. @Rick, you start with an obvious sampling bias, compound it with confirmation bias, and then make a faulty generalization, all in the service of your usual motivated reasoning. No one's missing your point, we just recognize your point as irrational.

    Posted by: JJ | Mar 7, 2014 8:25:51 PM

  10. Well, RICK is marginally right in that racism did not comes to an end with the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960's. Legal change is vital, and cultural change is also very, very important. The cultural change is much slower, but it's absolutely -and in the long run - helped along by progress in the law.

    Posted by: Zlick | Mar 7, 2014 8:26:48 PM

  11. Once you go behind the curtains in these little communities, you very often get a very different picture. In the decades my partner and I have lived in Pennsylvania, we have had a dead rat put at our door, have found other dead animals that seemed to have been placed for effect. And we wonder if the Goats leg we found in our yard recently, might be related to our neighbors who are into witchcraft. But then trying to comprendh that the police for some reason will not investigate the entry and exit bullet hole in our property etc is scary. Why the township government won't respond to e-mails as to the road work that was done on neighboring private property using Township trucks, that to us could be to buy silence.
    I am sure that other's can chime in that their neighbor's bake them cookies and for some reason we have created and cause our circumstances.
    This Law Suit appears to be an interesting way to force people to play their hand. We aren't there yet because you think you are.

    I wish them well.

    Posted by: Jerry | Mar 7, 2014 8:34:47 PM

  12. This is whole story is obviously a fabrication, a red herring trumped up by southerners hoping to shift blame for the hatred and intolerance that can only exist south of the Mason-Dixon line.

    Posted by: David | Mar 7, 2014 8:40:00 PM

  13. Addison, VT better get the checkbook ready...they are going to be writing one h*ll of a settlement check.

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Mar 7, 2014 9:17:33 PM

  14. I love Vermont but I'm not surprised for every free wheeling liberal enclave there is an obese fat stained town stuck in the 40s.

    Posted by: Canny | Mar 7, 2014 10:06:50 PM

  15. I hate and have criticized comments that call into question claims of discrimination. So I honestly hope that these women have documented every possible iota of evidence to support their claims.

    That said, I'm not sure how the township would benefit much by the increase in their home's value. Even if their property taxes are pegged to the original cost of the place---meaning, the town could be getting more if someone else moved in and paid taxes at the current market value, in addition to the real estate transfer tax---it wouldn't be a massive boon to local revenue. A doubling in value over 10 years is hardly rare for a lakefront property. And for a highly desirable property, a tripling isn't surprising, especially if they've made improvements.

    Posted by: Paul R | Mar 7, 2014 10:10:40 PM

  16. RICK - you need help. Stop hating your self.

    Posted by: A-List Bears Are Awesome | Mar 7, 2014 10:25:01 PM

  17. I hope the jackass responsible for this harassment gets nailed.

    Posted by: Mike B. | Mar 8, 2014 12:09:18 AM

  18. F U Rick

    Go get some discreet butt at CPAC, where you doubtless eat sh*t and cry about how lonely it feels to love the D.

    Posted by: Canny | Mar 8, 2014 1:03:05 AM

  19. This is life in Amerika in 2014?

    Posted by: Matteo | Mar 8, 2014 1:05:33 AM

  20. Dykes dont no nuffin


    Posted by: Coonbot | Mar 8, 2014 1:38:51 AM

  21. Dykes dont no nuffin


    Posted by: Coonbot | Mar 8, 2014 1:38:52 AM

  22. I wonder if they're just obnoxious neighbors...

    Posted by: steve | Mar 8, 2014 2:15:08 AM

  23. I love Vermont. My favorite state.
    But there's a sizable minority of gun-toting hillbilly-pride types in Vermont that just can't stand the fact that their state is considered a verdant, progressive, environmentally conscious, liberal place.
    Still, they're in the minority. I love crossing the Vermont line from Massachusettes on 91. All the billboards disappear and you can see what a really beautiful place looks like if you don't turn it commercial. And they've got Bernie Sanders. Love Vermont!

    Posted by: woody | Mar 8, 2014 8:47:55 AM

  24. As Ernie said, the head of the select board is a Baptist pastor. Though I've never met the Barbaras, several friends have, and have heard about their issues for years. Woody's right, too. The "Take back Vermont" folks have lost the war, and it makes them mad as Hell. The select board guy is a known conservative, according to friends.

    Posted by: KevinVt | Mar 8, 2014 10:12:29 AM

  25. There are two sides to every story of conflict. I suspect this one is much more complicated than the narrative we know about now.

    Posted by: Joe in Ct | Mar 8, 2014 10:52:55 AM

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