Super Senior: Holly Puterbaugh & Lois Farnham

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 5:38 PM EST
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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - In the still of the night, the historic New Haven Train Depot last week slowly rolled on its way to its new home. Scores of workers were on hand but few spectators other than Holly Puterbaugh and Lois Farnham, who braved the elements.

“I’ve never seen a train depot move before,” Farnham said. The two love the outdoors and adventures. “We might make a snowman this afternoon.”

“If the snow packs, we will,” added Puterbaugh.

They’ve biked across America and lived together for a long time. “In October it will be 50 years,” Puterbaugh said.

“That was when we sort of committed that we wanted to spend the rest of our days together,” Farnham said. “And it wasn’t like we were keeping it a secret.

“We weren’t revealing it,” Puterbaugh said.

“Yeah, just everybody knew that we were ‘Lois and Holly.’ Probably, many people thought we were roommates,” Farnham said.

It was 25 years ago when they “came out” in a historic way. Puterbaugh and Farnham, along with two other couples, filed a lawsuit for the right for same-sex partners to marry. A Freedom to Marry Task Force was formed. “And they wanted people to know that we’re -- quote, un-quote -- that every gay and lesbian person did not have three heads. They were members of the community,” Farnham said.

The case made it to the Vermont Supreme Court in 1997, which was packed with supporters and opponents of gay marriage. Attorney Beth Robinson addressed the court: “In fact, the notion that of a Black person and a white person marrying was as antithetical to many people’s conceptions as what a marriage was as a notion as a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman,” she said.

“Beth just blew the other attorney out of the water,” Puterbaugh said.

The court decision sent it to the Vermont Legislature to remedy, and if they didn’t, the court would. In 2000 it all but consumed both the House and Senate. The “Take Back Vermont” movement was started by those who believed gay marriage was morally wrong.

Even their own family members weren’t happy with Holly and Lois’s partnership and decision to make it public. “I talked to my mother about it but my mother said, ‘I hope it doesn’t get back to my Sunday school,’” Farnham said.

“My mother’s worry was we might get hurt physically,” Puterbaugh said.

They say there was no verbal or physical threat towards them. The Legislature did vote to approve civil unions, the first state in the nation. “It was a very emotional time,” Puterbaugh said.

Puterbaugh and Farnham celebrated their union with a ceremony. “Some chose not to come because they were afraid if they went to the civil union that they would be accused of being gay or lesbian, so they chose not to come,” Puterbaugh said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: So the stigma was there?

Lois Farnham: Oh, definitely there was.

But it wasn’t a full-fledged marriage. That would happen in Vermont in 2009. The U.S. Supreme Court finally legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Puterbaugh and Farnham say they never thought it would happen in their lifetime. They realize their role in the effort was historic. “We’re just ordinary people... but I guess ordinary people that do things,” Farnham said.

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