Having been together for four years, Melissa McCord and her partner did not waste time taking advantage of Florida’s marriage equality, marrying on January 10. Still, the Jacksonville mothers of two wanted to plan a nice formal ceremony to share with family and friends and sought out a wedding planner. Lana Rusev of Simply Elegant Wedding Planning wrote back to them that she was already booked for the weekend they wanted, but bothered to add, “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.”
Of course, McCord did take it personally. “Just send me an email and let me know you were overbooked,” she told First Coast News. “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.”
Rusev, however, is standing by her discrimination: “I understand that they may be hurt, but there are other wedding planners who are ok with doing this. Take your business elsewhere.” She also added, “If I hurt anyone I apologize, but that is my personal belief. We all are entitled to our beliefs.”
McCord has found another wedding planner already, and she is also adding Rusev’s business to a list to a Facebook group that tracks businesses that are not friendly to the LGBT community.
Meanwhile, Rusev is taking great umbrage to the backlash she’s facing. On Facebook, she suggested that First News Coast cut some of her remarks, claiming, “I absolutely have nothing against these individuals.” But she also doubled down, asserting, “I am not afraid to stand for what I believe. I will continue to stand my ground and not be bullied. Our Facebook has been swarmed by discriminating comments and negative reviews.”
Indeed, her Facebook page includes negative comments from many people. Contrary to her description of them, however, the only discrimination that took place was when she refused to serve a same-sex couple. The Family Research Council has already come to Rusev’s defense, citing her as another victim of LGBT equality. Same-marriage “sure impacts their family when they’re fined, forced out of business, or lose their home simply for following their moral conscience,” the hate group wrote. Of course, the very laws these discriminating businesses are being fined under are the nondiscrimination protections that ensure LGBT people cannot be fired, evicted, or refused service just because of their identities — a history of actual persecution that is far more substantial.
Jacksonville does not have any such protections; the City Council rejected them in 2012 by a vote of 17–2. This means that McCord and her family have no legal case to make against Rusev.