A Christian-owned bridal shop in Pennsylvania has temporarily closed its doors to the public and is now only accepting appointments after its owner received threats because the shop refused to serve a lesbian couple looking for a wedding dress, a source close to the situation told The Christian Post.
On July 8, a lesbian couple from West Pittston, Pennsylvania, traveled about an hour to the town Bloomsberg, where they paid a visit to W.W. Bridal Boutique. The couple, 30-year-old Julie Ann Samanas and 34-year-old Shannon Kennedy, were in search of a wedding dress for Samanas to wear for their March 2018 wedding.
However, the couple was told at W.W. Bridal, which had already experienced much scrutiny from LGBT activists and left-leaning media in 2014 for refusing an appointment for a same-sex couple, that the store could not accommodate their request because they were Christian.
According to Philadelphia Gay News, the couple and Samanas' sister tried to hand one of two women working at the boutique a form with their information on it but were told by an employee that "our faith doesn't let us believe in [same-sex weddings.]"
The couple took to Facebook to discuss how they were denied service and tagged W.W. Bridal in the post. According to PGN, the shop initially responded by issuing a Facebook post that has since been deleted.
"The owners of W.W. Bridal Boutique reserve the rights afforded to them by the First Amendment of the Constitution to live out our lives according to our faith," the W.W. Bridal post was quoted as stating. "We will continue to serve our customers based on the tenets of our faith."
Following the PGN report, nationally recognized left-leaning outlets such as the Huffington Post and Yahoo Style picked up on the article. The shop's co-owner, Victoria Miller, told the Huffington Post in an email that their refusal was based on a matter of religious beliefs.
"We have provided formalwear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity," Miller wrote. "It is just this event, a same-sex marriage, which we cannot participate in due to our personal convictions."
"We simply ask that we be given the same ability to live our lives according to our convictions," she added.
Some LGBT supporters did not respond too kindly to the news of W.W. Bridal's refusal of service to Samanas and Kennedy.
According to Rich Penkoski, a West Virginia-based pastor who has been in contact with Miller and her family and has even taken over administration duties on the bridal shop's Facebook page, Miller has decided to close her shop temporarily and only accept appointments.
The decision, Penkoski said, was due in part to the fact that they have been threatened by a person angry with their choice to refuse service for same-sex weddings. Penkoski shared audio of a voicemail the shop received on Tuesday with CP.
"You stupid f****** bigots. We are coming for you and your family," a man declared in the voicemail. "We are going to tear your shop a part and make you feel as bad as you have made people feel. You f****** bigot scum. You are going down and so is all your employees and their families. You're done!"
Penkoski, who has also received his share of threats for running the online ministry and Facebook page "Warriors for Christ," told CP that Miller runs a family-run business and works with her daughters.
"They went through this in 2014 but this one for some reason is getting worse," Penkoski said on Wednesday. "They got a message from somebody today named Danny that said they have a 'few surprises' for them. That is kind of what prompted this."
"She did this back in 2014 as well until things blew over," he continued.
Penkoski stressed that he does not work for W.W. Bridal and is only trying to help the shop during this time. The Christian Post reached out to W.W. Bridal for comment but received no response by press time.
"I was moderating their page so that they can focus on their business without having to worry about all the negative comments on their Facebook page," Penkoski said.
Although some Christian business owners in other states have faced hefty consequences for refusing to provide products or services to same-sex weddings, the state of Pennsylvania's discrimination laws do not protect gays and lesbians from being denied service, being fired, or denied housing on the basis of their sexual orientation.