Bailey and Samantha Brazzel got married last July and decided to file their taxes jointly for the first time.
The couple went to Carter Tax Service in Russiaville to meet with Nancy Fivecoate, a tax preparer Ms Bailey used for the last four years.
“We went in there and sat down just like we always would, and then she said, ‘How are you filing this year?,’ and I said ‘married joint,’ and that’s when it went downhill,” Ms Bailey Brazzel said.
When Ms Fivecoate discovered that the same-sex couple will be filing jointly, she refused to file their taxes based on religious grounds.
In 2015, Vice President Mike Pence, then-governor of Indiana, signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, prohibiting the government from infringing on the religious freedoms of Indiana citizens. In result, RFRA also allowed businesses–like Ms Fivecoate’s—to discriminate against LGBTQ persons under the guise of religious freedom.
Ms Fivecoate, who also owns Carter Tax Service, told WTHR that her issue with the Brazzel couple is not with their sexual orientation.
She claims her issue is not with them “being gay,” but “it’s being married.”
As a Christian, Ms Fivecoate said she could not accept their business. She said she gave them suggestions for other tax preparer services.
“I have prepared her taxes for several years,” Ms Fivecoate, referring to Ms Bailey, told NBC affiliate WTHR in a statement. “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. I was very respectful to them. I told them where I thought she might be able to get her taxes prepared.”
Ms Fivecoate alleges that the same-sex couple is “trying to destroy” her business. Since news broke out that she allegedly discriminated against a married lesbian couple, Ms Fivecoate said she received harassing calls and emails.
The Brazzel couple said their intention with going public about their experience is bring awareness to the lack of LGBTQ protections in Indiana. Although there are some cities across the midwestern state that passed ordinances protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination, there is no state-wide law prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender.
“I don’t need anyone to agree with my lifestyle or things that I do,” Ms Bailey said. “But if you’re going to run a business, you should be able to work with all types of people.”