Two Indiana women said a local tax service refused to do their returns because they are a married couple.
Bailey and Samantha Brazzel told the Indianapolis Star they visited Carter Tax Service in Russiaville, Indiana, Feb. 12 to have their taxes done. The company previously prepared Bailey Brazzel’s taxes for several years. The women wed in July 2018, and this was the first time Bailey Brazzel expected to file a joint tax return.
Unfortunately for the Brazzels, their experience at Carter Tax Service “went downhill” immediately after they told owner Nancy Fivecoate they were married. At that point, they said, Fivecoate told them she couldn’t file their taxes because doing so for a same-sex couple would violate her religious beliefs.
“I didn’t go in there to talk about my marriage,” Bailey Brazzel told NBC affiliate WTHR. “I went in to file my taxes, that was it ― that’s all I wanted.”
“I don’t need anyone to agree with my lifestyle or things that I do,” she added. “But if you’re going to run a business, you should be able to work with all types of people.”
Fivecoate did not deny the Brazzels’ claims, telling the Star that she identifies as a Christian and “I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”
“The LGBT want respect for their beliefs, which I give them. I did not say anything about their lifestyle,” she continued. “That is their choice. It is not my choice. Where is their respect for my beliefs?”
The incident has made national headlines, partly because of where it happened. In 2015, Indiana was at the center of a media firestorm when then-Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president, signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.
The RFRA allows business owners to cite their faith as a defense when sued by a private party, meaning they can legally discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The act was revised in the wake of the controversy so as to not interfere with local ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. Since Russiaville does not have such anti-discrimination laws, Fivecoate can legally deny service to the Brazzels and other same-sex couples.
In the absence of legal recourse, the Brazzels said, they had no choice but to share their story on social media ― prompting Fivecoate to accuse of them of “trying to destroy” her business.
Bailey Brazzel told WTHR, “We don’t have an issue with her. We don’t think she’s a terrible person.”
The couple said in a statement, “All we really want is … to shed light on the fact that there aren’t any laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination.”