A lesbian couple in Indiana says they were turned away by a tax preparer because they got married in July and decided to file their taxes jointly, reports Indianapolis-based NBC affiliate WTHR.
Bailey and Samantha Brazzel say they went to file their taxes using tax preparer Nancy Fivecoate, the owner of Carter Tax Service in Russiaville, Ind., who Bailey had used to file her taxes for the past four years.
“We went in and sat down like we always would and [Fivecoate] said ‘How are you filing this year?’ and I said ‘married joint’ and that’s when it went downhill,” Bailey Brazzel said.
According to the couple, Fivecoate refused to do their taxes because they were married and her Christian beliefs say that marriage should only be reserved for the union of one man and one woman.
“We were pretty shocked and upset,” Samantha Brazzel told WTHR.
“I didn’t go in there to talk about my marriage,” Bailey Brazzel said. “I went in to file my taxes, that was it. That’s all I wanted.”
Reached by WTHR for comment, Fivecoate confirmed that she had turned the couple away because they were married. She then issued a statement detailing her version of the encounter.
“On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, I had a client with an appointment come in to have her taxes prepared. I have prepared her taxes for several years,” the statement reads. “This year she came in with her wife and I declined to prepare the taxes because of my religious beliefs. I am a Christian and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Fivecoate claims in the statement that she was respectful and even referred the couple to another preparer who could help them. She also claims she has no issue filing taxes for gay or lesbian clients, so long as they are not married, and that has been her practice for years.
“The LGBT want respect for their beliefs, which I give them. I did not say anything about their lifestyle. That is their choice. It is not my choice. Where is their respect for my beliefs?” Fivecoate’s statement continues.
“I am not trying to destroy them by dragging them through social media. Why are they trying to destroy my business? I have made no comment on social media. Where is their respect for me and my beliefs?”
Fivecoate says she has received a number of harassing calls and emails after the Brazzels wrote about their negative encounter with her on social media.
But the Brazzels argue that they are not trying to ruin Fivecoate’s business, just spread awareness that this type of discrimination is legal in Indiana.
“We don’t have an issue with her. We don’t think she’s a terrible person,” Bailey Brazzel says. “But we’re not the only ones this happens to and it’s wrong and something needs to be done about it.”
Because Indiana law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there are no local ordinances providing protections, Fivecoate is within her right to refuse to provide services to LGBTQ married couples.
But the couple says they feel compelled to advocate for protections for LGBTQ people as a result of their experience.
“It’s about the community and everyone being treated fairly,” Bailey Brazzel says. “I don’t need anyone to agree with my lifestyle or things that I do, but if you’r going to run a business, you should be able to work with all types of people.”