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November 29, 2011

Who's Sitting Next to Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson in Tuesday's Burlington Free Press? Her Wife!

DSC00924A photo on the front page of Tuesday's Burlington Free Press captured a lighthearted moment from yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson. The 46-year-old lawyer and gay rights advocate is responsible for the fact that same-sex couples can marry in Vermont.

To Robinson's left is Gov. Peter Shumlin, the guy who appointed her to the bench and for whom she has served as legal counsel for the past year.

To Robinson's right? The picture shows a smiling woman — with a camera — sharing a laugh with Robinson. But the caption doesn't identify her. Not a whisper. And she is, of course, Robinson's wife: Dr. Kym Boyman.

Normally such an omission would be no big deal. Standard, even. But the irony of this one can't be ignored.

Robinson has spent most of her professional life trying to get Vermont to recognize gay and lesbian relationships. She made a convincing case for civil unions before the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999. Then she masterminded the lobbying effort that led the legislature to pass same-sex marriage into law in 2009.

That Robinson's own partner remains nameless in a photo that otherwise perfectly documents her personal odyssey proves there's still work to be done.

If that was Mr. Robinson sitting next to Vermont's newest supreme court justice, do you think a copy editor would have tracked down the photographer to confirm his identity? No doubt.  

Justice for all? Not yet.

Paula. Maybe the freeps did not consider it newsworthy as it would be expected that Dr. Boyman would be there,
compared to it was newsworthy when Dr. Steinberg attended Howard Deans functions, because it happened rarely.
Hows that for some fun spin?

Seriously? I suppose that's why the Free Press wrote about all those same sex couples stories before and after the marriage act was passed, because their homophobes?? Might be sloppy on their part, but this is ridiculous. I'd like some real news now please.

If it is a Free Press standard not to regularly include names in their captions, why is this news? The only irony and injustice is that Seven Days thinks their readership actually enjoys the weekly dose of Freeps sniping.

Attempt to create a controversy where none exists, much? Holy christ, you leap to a conclusion of homophobia because they don't identify someone in a picture? Really?

PS, I was present at the ceremony in question.

The implication isn't that the Freeps hates the gays. It's that despite the strides for equality, LGBT people aren't quite there yet. For example, their spouses are invisible.

PS, what difference does it make that you were there? And who are you again?

Invisible? The spouse wasn't invisible. Her photo was in the newspaper. The fact that they failed to identify her in the caption is indicative of . . . absolutely nothing.

I daresay, you're supposed to actually read the story, not just look at the pictures. The story itself mentions that Boyman is Robinson's wife, and even quotes her.

BTW, I don't see anywhere in this piece that any attempt was made to contact the BPF or the photographer or Terri Hallenbeck (or Beth Robinson) before publishing an accusation that they are somehow either homophobic or insensitive or politically incorrect.

Oh come on; I don't like the BFP either, but this accusation is just crazy! Her wife was mentioned (and quoted!) in the article. The omission in the photo caption clearly wasn't intentional, or if it was, it's not homophobic. Furthermore she IS in all the photo captions in the online article (which is where most people read the news these days). See

"Justice for all? Not yet."

This reads like a piece in the Onion.

I never accused the Free Press of homophobia! I was simply pointing out the irony of this particular omission, which is "standard" — as in, it happens a lot — but not policy. People in newspaper photos are supposed to be identified, especially when they are front and center, as Dr. Boyman is, both literally and figuratively. I did email photographer Glenn Russell to ask him if she requested anonymity. He responded: No, she didn't; he forgot to include her info when he sent the photo to the Free Press. When I asked if an editor — or copy editor — called back to ask for it, he did not respond. There's no conspiracy here, folks, or breaking news. It's just an observation. As "Robert" says above, "Despite the strides for equality, LGBT people aren't quite there yet."

Um . . . in other words, there was really nothing there from the beginning.

It is odd to not use the caption to identify all of the people in the photo. Very odd.

But it's great to have Robinson on the bench!

I agree with Paula's observation and appreciated her pointing it out. Ironic and telling, if unintentional. Inaction is not neutral. And yes, congrats to Beth!

So... the point is that LGBT people are regularly the victims of unintentional snubs?

Here's what I think Paula's saying -- look at that picture: it's not a random crowd shot. It's very clearly and deliberately a portrait of three people. It would have been easy to take a portrait of only Gov. Shumlin and Justice Robinson, or to crop the photo after the fact.

Then add to that that it's on the front page of the state's paper of record. Then add to that that it's an openly homosexual woman being sworn in to the highest court in the state. Then add to that that she's made history -- like it or not -- for having a pivotal role in legalizing same-sex marriages in VT. Then add to that that it's her own wife sitting next to her.

If you don't realize how all of that adds up to a pretty powerful journalistic statement, you're clearly missing something. In light of all that, not identifying Dr. Boyman in the caption is either careless or negligent. Either way, it's significant.

So... it was intentional?

I think the lesson here is "think blog entries through before hitting publish."

"If you don't realize how all of that adds up to a pretty powerful journalistic statement, you're clearly missing something."

OMG, Neil. Now you're suggesting something that Paula herself has already said she didn't intend.

Good lord. Please, give your paranoia a rest. Jeezus.

The one thing the BFP has proven over the twenty years I've been closely watching is that they are incompetent and silly. But they're not engaged in some conspiracy to take pictures of Beth Robinson's wife but refuse to identify her. Frankly, your conspiracy theory gives them way too much credit for competence. Do you know how silly you sound?

It is you that is clearly "missing something."

I'm glad that Paula pointed this out. It was an astute observation. Whatever the intentions (or lack thereof) behind the omission, it is odd that the person featured most prominently in the photograph, and who was featured prominently in Gov. Shumlin's remarks and in Beth's remarks, was left anonymous.

This instance aside, I believe there is still an unnecessary discomfort (and in many areas outside VT, an outright taboo) in naming gay family members. In this case, the fact that our newest Supreme Court Justice, the first openly gay Justice in our state, was seated beside her wife was significant--fortunately, at the ceremony itself, there was no such invisibility, though Kym probably wished for a little less spotlight for reasons that have nothing to do with sexuality.

As a larger issue, married gay couples in VT, such as Beth and Kym, and many gay married friends I know, still receive (because of DOMA) none of the many federal benefits all other married couples receive. That's the true unfairness.

There are no accidents
They left her name off because far too many straights harbor far too much homo hatred
Call me paranoid – but only if youre queer
If youre not – kindly stfu
You do not know what youre talking about
You have not lived it – you do not know—
Homo hatred is very alive and very well
Leaving her off the caption would never have been done if it were her husband
All you straights screaming how it means nothing
Are talking out of your asses
I doubt too many queers with an ounce of awareness would fail to see this for what it is
Props to paula for calling the crummy fp for its homo hatred


First, in your rush to accuse the FP of homophobia because they left a name out of a photo caption, you claim to be supporting Ms. Routly's conclusion, but you've gone far beyond what she herself said.

Did you bother to read all of the comments before you spewed your paranoia? Ms. Routly herself posted a comment denying that she was, as you put it, "calling [out] the crummy fp for its homo hatred."

Ms. Routly wrote, "I never accused the Free Press of homophobia!" and "There's no conspiracy here, folks,"

Second, did you actually read the BFP article before posting your accusatory comment? The story itself mentions that Boyman is Robinson's wife, and even quotes her, and Ms. Boyman IS identified in the online version of the story.

Don't let facts get in the way of your paranoia. Enjoy.

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