Ohio same-sex couple accuses videographer of discrimination

Jenn Moffitt and Jerra Kincley say they want legislation that will protect the LGBT community in Ohio.

Story highlights

Same-sex couple claims denial of service by wedding videographer

Other couples around the country have made similar complaints from wedding vendors

CNN  — 

A community is rallying around an Ohio couple who says they were denied wedding services because of their sexual orientation.

Jenn Moffitt and her partner Jerra Knicely were on the hunt in February for a wedding videographer.

She sent an email asking video production business “Next Door Stories” in Bexley, Ohio, if it would cater to a same-sex couple.

She was shocked by the response.

“Unfortunately at this time I do not offer services for same-sex weddings,” the owner of business wrote in an email Moffitt shared with CNN.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Moffitt said. “It is a small business, and I thought this was a tight knit community. We wanted to support local commerce and to get that kind of response was astounding.”

When contacted by CNN, Courtney Schmackers, the owner of “Next Door Stories,” declined Monday to comment on the matter.

The incident comes on the heels of similar complaints from same-sex couples around the country claiming discrimination from wedding vendors. A bakery in Oregon was ordered to pay fines for violating a same-sex couple’s civil rights by refusing to cater their wedding.

Some states have passed laws modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows people to claim religious exemptions from some anti-discrimination laws – but Ohio is not one of them. A proposed “Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was killed by its sponsors last year over concerns that it open the door to discrimination of the LGBT community.

Bexley, a suburb of Columbus, is not one of the municipalities in Ohio that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Moffitt and Kincely reached out to the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce through its Facebook page about five weeks ago to file a complaint against the business. They also shared their story on Facebook to raise awareness and get the attention of local officials.

Julian Curet, a music director in Canton, Ohio, saw the couple’s story on Facebook and shared it on CNN iReport and other sites online.

“With all the legislation being tossed around the country that would potentially allow businesses to deny services to the LGBT community, this story raises the question of the current legality of the issue, particularly in Ohio,” Curet wrote in his iReport.

“This conversation needs to be had.”

Others responded positively to Mottiff’s Facebook post, with photographers offering up their services and locals offering kind words.

“This is the kind of thing you expect to hear from other parts of the country,” one person commented.

“I am sorry you encountered this bigoted business. I wish you and your wife many, many years of love and good health,” another person added.

The Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce addressed the incident on its Facebook page. Even though it does not have a nondiscrimination policy that applies to membership, the organization said it does not tolerate discrimination “in any form.”

After reviewing the situation, the organization sent a letter to its members saying its board is in the process of rewriting its policy to forbid applicants and current members “from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender expression, age, ancestry, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status.”

“The Chamber Board believes that discrimination in any form is wrong and should not be tolerated,” the board said in the letter, which it shared on its Facebook page. “As we revise this policy, we plan to seek input from our membership as well. We hope to have these new policies in place very soon.”

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler also released a statement on his Facebook page saying the community embraces, respects and includes all individuals – but the City of Bexley does not have authority over the Chamber of Commerce’s membership.

Moffitt hopes the attention from officials will lead to legislation that protects Ohio’s LGBT community.

“The outpouring from strangers has been absolutely amazing,” she said.

Ohio is one of 13 states that currently does not allow same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to make a decision on whether the state’s same-sex marriage ban is constitutional come spring.