Russiaville tax filing business denies service to same-sex couple, cites religious freedom

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. — A married couple in Russiaville says a local tax filing service denied them service because they’re a same-sex couple.

Bailey and Samantha Brazzel say they went to Carter Tax Service to file a joint return. Bailey Brazzel said she previously used the service, filing individually,  without incident. However, when she took her new wife Samantha with her so they could file jointly, Carter Tax Service denied them service. The owners say it's because they are a same-sex couple.

Nancy Fivecoate, owner of Carter Tax service, released a statement regarding the incident:

"On Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 I had a client with an appointment come in to have her taxes prepared. I have prepared her taxes for several years. This year she came in with her wife and I declined to prepare her taxes because of my religious beliefs. I am a Christian, and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

"For many years I have had several gay clients. I still have gay clients.

"A few years a go I had a couple of gay clients that married. When it was time to prepare their taxes they called me and asked me if I had a problem since they were married. I told them that as a Christian I could not prepare their taxes. I thanked them for calling and I wished them well.

"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 there respect for my beliefs?

"I am not trying to destroy them by dragging them through social media. Why are they trying to destroy my name? I have made no comment on social media. Where is there respect for me and my beliefs."

Fivecoate's actions are considered a crime in parts of Indiana, like nearby Kokomo, but in Russiaville her actions are legal.

Indiana law states that denying service to a gay couple is legal unless the local municipality, county or city has passed a human rights ordinance that prohibits such discrimination.

“There’s no law prohibiting it. It’s just either a victory for religious freedom, or a blow to equal citizenship, depending on your perspective,” IU McKinney School of Law Professor Robert Katz said.

The incident has since received national attention. The Brazzels released the following statement in response to the growing controversy: “We never expected anything to come of a Facebook post. But all we really want is for it to shed light on the fact that there aren’t any laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination. Marriage equality has been the law of the land since 2015, and yet businesses can deny services because of our marriage. That isn’t right.”

Carter Tax Service owners John and Nancy Fivecoate say since news broke on the incident they’ve received countless calls from across the country with people attacking them for their beliefs. John Fivecoate says they’re beginning to get concerned for the well-being of their family. They also emphasized that when they turned down the Brazzels, they offered to help them find other services that would accommodate them, and that if the Brazzels had wanted to file separate returns, they would’ve helped them.

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