Refusal to Print Wedding Invitations Brings Apology

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

In February 2004 the ACLU announced an agreement settling a discrimination complaint filed by a gay man against a Seattle business that refused to print invitations to his wedding with his same-sex partner.  Under the agreement, the business owner apologized for her actions and agreed to abide by Seattle’s anti-discrimination law in the future.

“Our nation’s commitment to ending discrimination requires businesses to serve all customers equally.  Business owners are entitled to their private opinions about same-sex marriage, but discriminatory business practices are not permitted,” said ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan, who represented the gay man in the case.

In August 2003, Seattle resident Tom Butts contacted Starfish Creative Invitations to hire them to print invitations for his upcoming wedding ceremony with Scott Carter in Vancouver, B.C.  Butts liked samples of the company’s work he had seen and liked the fact that it was a local business.  Starfish, a Seattle company, refused to provide their services because, in the proprietor’s words, she believes “homosexuality is wrong” and same-sex weddings are “against her belief system.”

The business owner’s refusal violated Seattle’s Open Housing Public Accommodations Ordinance, which protects an individual’s right to purchase products and services without regard to sexual orientation.  With legal representation by the ACLU, Butts filed a complaint with Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights, the agency that enforces the non-discrimination law.

Under the settlement, the business owner acknowledged that all persons should be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of sexual orientation, and she apologized that actions offended and hurt Butts.   She agreed not to violate Seattle’s anti-discrimination law in the future.  Butts and Carter were married in October 2003.

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