In turning down a lesbian couple’s request for help planning a wedding, the owner of Simply Elegant Wedding Planning in Jacksonville, Fla., could have stopped after saying she was overbooked for the date they wanted, October 30. But she didn’t.
"After checking our booked events I have discovered that we are booked on the 30th & 31st and unfortunately are not able to take additional events for the weekend,"Lana Rusev wrote to the couple, Melissa and Jennifer McCord. "Also, due to my strong personal belief I do not feel comfortable planning a wedding for lesbian couples. I hope you understand and not take this personally. I am really sorry for the inconvenience this may cause."
"Well due to my own personal beliefs, I will never EVER be using your services or recommend you to anyone else. I am not homosexual myself but straight, gay, whatever — we are all human beings and deserve to be treated as such." — Kimberly Adams
"Hope your reliable florist isn’t GAY. You may now have to find NEW vendors that wish NOT to work with discriminating businesses. So sad that you felt the need to express your beliefs in such a negative way that has offended many. Poor public relations on the business owners part not to mention poor business all the way around. My predictions is that you will not remain in business past 1 year after such a bad business decision." — David Vandygriff
Rusev, an immigrant from Ukraine, cast herself as a victim, telling the TV station the comments remind her of oppression in the former Soviet Union. "This takes me back to about 26 years ago when my family and I fled from a country that persecuted people for their belief," said Rusev, who said she is a Christian.
The McCords responded that Rusev's religious beliefs don’t justify discrimination. "Just send me an email and let me know you were overbooked," Melissa McCord told WTLV. "Don't throw your belief in my face that you won't do it because of what we are. My money is just as green as everybody else's."
As for Rusev's admonition to "not take this personally," McCord said, "I can't help but take it personal. That was the first time I had ever to my face been discriminated against and it was kind of hurtful."
Right-wing activists have already come to Rusev's defense. "The wedding planner, the latest in a long string of Christian targets, is watching with horror as the hostility she had once seen in Eastern Europe followed her to America, courtesy of Jacksonville's radical LGBT community," wrote Family Research Council president Tony Perkins in a Web post published Tuesday. FRC has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center.
"The extremists who are trying to redefine marriage try to rebuff the opposition by arguing, 'How does my same-sex marriage affect your marriage?'" Perkins continued. "Well, it may not affect their marital vows, but it sure impacts their family when they're fined, forced out of business, or lose their home simply for following their moral conscience."
While Rusev's stance may cost her some business — Melissa McCord said she's going to add Simply Elegant to a Facebook page that lists businesses hostile to LGBT people — a fine or any sort of legal repercussion is unlikely, as neither Jacksonville nor the state of Florida has any law prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination.
The McCords, meanwhile, are forging ahead with their wedding plans. They were married January 10, shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, but they want to have a special event for family and friends in October. The women have been together for four years and have two children.
Watch the WTLV report below.