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Lesbian couple sues Vt. town claiming a decade of anti-gay harassment

Sunday, March 9, 2014
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ADDISON, Vt. — A lesbian couple is suing the town of Addison, Vt., alleging they have been subjected to 10 years of discrimination, harassment and intimidation by residents and town officials because of their sexual orientation.

WPTZ-TVBarbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno

WPTZ-TV
Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno

Attorney David Bond tells WPTZ-TV that Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno, who have been partners for 21 years, moved to their lakefront Vermont property in 2004, and have been repeatedly subjected to anti-gay harassment.

“It’s entirely based on their sexual orientation,” Bond said. “Neighbors insulted them, made obscene gestures to them. There were dead animals left on their property.”

In 2008, the women put up a fence because of ongoing threats, which Bond said adhered to the town’s requirements. Still, he said, two public meetings were held about the fence and the town failed to notify his clients.

Other zoning issues revolved around a handicap ramp set up at the home for Supeno’s mother, Bond said. In the complaint, Bond said the town clerk refused to accept an application the town required Supeno to file or face a $100 fine.

Over the course of the decade, Ernst and Supeno’s assessed property has tripled.

Bond said his clients have also been intimidated by anonymous bullies.

In April 2011, a letter circulated around town saying Ernst and Supeno were scam artists.

The letter, titled “The truth about The Barbaras,” reads in part, “It has been over 6 years that the Subject two women have been passing themselves off as involved citizens and very concerns about the town direction and in particular with Zoning, the school and the environment. Beware: This is a totally phony perception that they have fabricated is a front to cover their devious and vicious behavior.”

Bond claims town leadership tried to push the women out of town.

More from WPTZ-TV:

The six counts named in the complaint 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.

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