An Etsy seller based in California has reportedly refused to design the guestbook for a same-sex wedding because it goes against her Christian beliefs.
Prospective customer Jami Howard first posted about the incident in a Facebook post on April 8. Howard, who lives in New York City and who proposed to her fiancee, Lindsay Tadych, at Walt Disney World in January, said she emailed Pale Designs in March about designing a custom, Disney-themed guest book for the couple.
The first few message exchanges were friendly, Howard said, but when she mentioned she was gay, the communication paused. Eventually, Pale Designs owner Jessica Fong sent back the following response, which Howard reproduced in the body of the Facebook post:
After talking with my pastor and praying about the situation, I decided that I shouldn't design your guestbook for you.
Please know that I did take this into much thought though. Because I am a Christian and I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, I feel that designing a customized guestbook for you two will be against my belief and will mean that who I am and my business supports gay marriages.
On her website, Fong describes herself as a 22-year-old California artist and "sinner" with a "desire is to share who God is and His love through art, which God has graciously given me." She did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post's requests for comment.
In an email to HuffPost, Howard said she was "outraged" by the incident.
"Our stance is that she's allowed to believe whatever she wants," Howard wrote, "but why does that excuse discrimination? What if she had refused service because we were black? Or Jewish? Or disabled? anything else? Why is it okay because it's sexual orientation?"
Howard described herself and her fiancee as "church going Christians" themselves -- a factor that made Fong's message all the more frustrating, she said.
"We didn't ask her to accept us or 'support' us, we simply asked for a product and we were denied that service as though we were less than," she said.
When the couple reached out to Etsy, they were directed to its website, she said. A representative for the company emailed HuffPost the following statement:
As you can imagine, legal issues, such as matters concerning discrimination, are often very complex. We respect each community member’s right to their personal opinions and beliefs, and with 25 million members around the world, expect that some members may disagree with each other. The opinions and beliefs of members may not reflect those of Etsy, Inc. or Etsy employees. If a member thinks that discrimination has occurred and constitutes a legal infraction in their location, they may choose to address the issue directly with the other party, or contact an attorney for legal assistance.
At the same time, state law varies widely in terms of business transaction protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
For example, New York state's Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act "prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights" but does not necessarily cover private business transactions.
In contrast, the Washington Attorney General’s Office is suing the owner of a local flower shop that refused to provide flowers for a gay couple's wedding due to religious objections. Washington law stipulates that state citizens have the "right to engage in credit transactions without discrimination."
Editor's Note: The text has been updated to include additional information from Etsy.