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PA Bridal Shop Under Fire for Religious Beliefs

ww bridalCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The same sad but tired story of same-sex couples trying to force the faithful to accept their lifestyle choices is playing out once again, this time with a Christian-owned bridal shop in Pennsylvania that refused to sell bridal gowns to a same-sex couple.

The Christian Post is reporting on the story of W.W. Bridal Boutique in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania which began on July 8 when a lesbian couple from West Pittston came to the shop in search of wedding dress for their March 2018 wedding. The couple, Julie Ann Samanas, 30, and Shannon Kennedy, 34, were told that the store could not accommodate their request because they were Christian and did not believe in same-sex marriage.

As usual, the couple immediately went on Facebook to describe how they had been discriminated against by W.W. Bridal. “I'll gladly take my money some where else, when a business won't allow you to try on wedding dresses simply because you're gay,” wrote the couple at 11:54 a.m. on July 8.

However, they may have picked on the wrong business. A similar episode occurred in 2014 when the shop refused to service the “bride” in a lesbian wedding but owners, Victoria and Tom Miller, refused to cave. The controversy eventually blew over.

This time, the Millers posted a comment on Samanas’ Facebook page which read: "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. We will continue to serve our customers based on the tenets of our faith."

Even though the comment has since been deleted, many of the 400+ people who chose to weigh in on the controversy sided with the bridal shop, not the couple.

Julie Ann wrote: “I completely agree with the bridal shop. I'm a Christian and a business owner. I believe that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone, without explanation. Take your money elsewhere and respect others' faith. There are Christians being beheaded for their faith, losing a bit of business is nothing compared to being killed.”

Natasha wrote: “The Bridal Store has SAME RIGHTS as you. They have their own beliefs, you got your own [sic]. There is no sense to argue who`s faith is more right. Just simply walk away with respect if you would like to be respected back and don't accuse store salespeople in their religion views. . . .”

Of course, the mainstream media also picked up on the story and tried to run with it but the owners once again stood firm.

"We have provided formal wear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity," the Millers wrote to the Huffington Post. "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."

Unfortunately, things became untenable when an unknown man left a life-threatening message in their voicemail. The expletive laced threat called them bigots and said: “We are coming for you and your family. We are going to tear your shop a part and make you feel as bad as you have made people feel. You [expletive] bigot scum. You are going down and so is all your employees and their families. You're done!"

In the interest of personal safety, the store was forced to temporarily close its doors and is only accepting appointments.

"They went through this in 2014 but this one for some reason is getting worse," said Rich Penkoski, a West Virginia-based pastor who has been in contact with the Millers and has even taken over administration duties on the bridal shop's Facebook page.

Penkoski, who has also received threats for coming to the defense of the shop, told the CP that he does not work for the store and is only trying to help the shop during this 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.

Even though Christian business owners in other states have faced hefty fines for refusing to service same-sex weddings, there are no discrimination laws in the state of Pennsylvania that specifically protect gays and lesbians from being denied service because of their sexual orientation.

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