Gay couple ordered wedding programs from printing company, received homophobic pamphlets instead

CREDIT: Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg/via Yahoo News

An Australian gay couple marrying in rural Pennsylvania to be close to their family ordered 100 copies of a wedding program from VistaPrint, but instead received about 80 copies of a Christian propaganda pamphlet. On Tuesday, they filed a federal lawsuit against the company in its home state of Massachusetts.

Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg opened the package they expected to contain their wedding programs on the eve of their wedding back in September. They had requested a blue and gold design that included the events of the day, the names of their wedding party members, and the lyrics to “Treasure” by Above and Beyond, because they’d gotten engaged the day they saw the group in concert.

CREDIT: Complaint

Instead, they found a pamphlet entitled, “Understanding Temptation: Fight the good fight of the faith.” Laden with Christian Bible verses, the pamphlet speaks to resisting Satan’s three types of temptation:

  1. Lust of the Flesh is what appeals to our body in a sinful manner.
  2. Lust of the Eyes is what attracts us to sin when we look at it.
  3. Pride of Life is what appeals to our self-worth in a way that directs us to become self-centered.

The pamphlet asks the reader, “If your self-centeredness is what lures you into sin, what can you do to ward off the temptation?”

CREDIT: Complaint

The lawsuit claims the pamphlets were “plainly sent to threaten and attack Mr. Heasley and Mr. Borg because they are gay.” They were “both emotionally devastated by Vistaprint’s intimidating and discriminatory conduct,” which the suit describes as “heinous and despicable” — as well as unlawful. The couple had to print their own wedding programs for the ceremony the next day.

“We realized that whoever had sent this had our personal addresses,” Heasley told Yahoo News. “We were getting married on a family farm in what we understand to be a fairly conservative and rural part of Pennsylvania. If ill-intentioned people decided to target our wedding and guests, we would have very few options to escape or seek shelter.”

Vistaprint is still conducting an internal investigation, but decried the incident in a statement. “Vistaprint would never discriminate against customers for their sexual orientation,” the company said. “We pride ourselves on being a company that celebrates diversity and enables customers all over the world to customize products for their special events. We have just been made aware of this incident in the last few hours. We understand how upsetting it would be for anyone to receive materials such as these the night before their wedding and we have immediately launched an internal investigation. Until we have had the opportunity to complete our investigation, we cannot comment further.”

Heasley says the pain has not faded, and they hope to hold the company accountable to prevent others from being similarly victimized.

ThinkProgress was unable to trace the origin of the pamphlet. While there is a conservative, anti-gay Catholic organization called Battle Ready, it does not use the same logo as appears on the pamphlet and does not appear to be the source.

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, Vistaprint CEO Trynka Shinerman and founder Robert Keane issued an open letter to customers regarding the incident, saying that they were “incredibly saddened” and that they “share in this couple’s outrage.”

“Vistaprint in no way condones — and does not tolerate — discrimination against any of our customers based on their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  We have encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to use our services to help celebrate their life events for many years, and have published thousands of wedding invitations, programs and other content for same sex couples.”

They state that they have begun a complete investigation, promising “strong action” against any Vistaprint employee responsible for sending the materials. They have communicated to “all Vistaprint team members” a recommitment to “equality and diversity for all of our customers and employees.” They also claim in the letter that they have “begun to plan how we can use our global brand platform to share a message of support for same sex marriage and equality around the world.”