Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno have been partners for 21 years. In 2004 the pair moved to Addison, Vermont on the banks of Lake Champlain. While known as a state with a liberal and welcoming reputation, that is not the Vermont experienced by “the Barbaras”.
Ernst and Supeno have filed a lawsuit against the town of Addison, the zoning director in the town, and several of their neighbors. According to their attorney, David Bond, the couple is suing for alledged discrimination and intimidation. Bond claims that the couple has been harassed since they first moved into Addison 20 years ago.
“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.”
Among the accusations, Bond says that his client’s property has been discussed at several zoning meetings yet his clients were never notified. In addition the complaint states that the couple has filed several grievances with the town regarding issues with their neighbors as well as zoning issues. Those complaints, according to the Bond, have all been ignored.
Then there is ‘the letter’. In 2011 a letter surfaced around the town claiming that Ernst and Supeno were scam artists. From the letter, “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.”
Jeff Kaufmann, head of the local zoning committee, and a Baptist minister, is named in the suit, as is Kaufmann’s wife and two former neighbors of Ernst and Supeno.
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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