A lesbian couple in Vermont is suing the town where they live, claiming they have endured a decade of discrimination. Barbara Ernst and Barbara Supeno claim the town of Addison has tried to force them to move out since the couple purchased a home there in 2004.
David Bond, attorney for the couple, filed the lawsuit Wednesday.
“It's entirely based on their sexual orientation,” Bond told Vermont’s WPTZ News. “Neighbors insulted them, made obscene gestures to them. There were dead animals left on their property.”
The complaint alleges that the town has held various zoning meetings about the couple’s lakefront property but failed to notify the women that their property was being discussed. Bond claims the town took issue with a fence the couple had built on the property, even though the structure followed the town’s regulations. Furthermore, he claims, the town refused to accept an application for a permit to build a handicap ramp at the couple’s home. The ramp was for Supeno’s mother, and the couple would have had to pay a $100 fine if the permit was not filed.
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The lawsuit names head of the local zoning committee Jeff Kaufmann and two neighbors as codefendants. It lays out six counts, ranging from defamation to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Kaufmann is also a Baptist minister in the community.
The suit may seem strange coming out of typically progressive Vermont. The state was the first in the United States to allow same-sex civil unions in 2000 and has allowed same-sex marriages since 2009.
Ernst and Supeno, though, say they want to set a precedent and keep discrimination from gaining a foothold in the state.
"Their hope is this lawsuit will change things," Bond was quoted as saying in the Huffington Post story. "Civil rights laws are very favorable in recognizing that there shouldn't be discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and they never expected they would be moving into this hotbed of hatred."
Kaufmann and the other codefendants have thus far declined to comment on the suit.