Free to Believe

Lana Rusev

Simply Elegant Event: Jacksonville, Florida

In January 2015, Melissa McCord and her lesbian partner approached Jacksonville, Florida’s wedding planning service, Simply Elegant Event to coordinate their same-sex marriage. Simply Elegant’s owner, Lana Rusev followed up in a polite letter to McCord and her partner, indicating that not only was there a conflict with the dates—but also with her conscience. “After checking our booked events I have discovered that we are booked on [October] 30th and 31st and unfortunately are not able to take additional events for the weekend,” Rusev wrote. “Also, due to my strong personal belief, I do not feel comfortable planning a wedding for lesbian couples. I hope you understand and do not take this personally. I am really sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.”

Rusev, an immigrant from the Ukraine, indicated that her Christian faith conflicted with her ability to be intimately involved in every stage of planning for a same-sex ceremony. “I understand that they may be hurt, but there are other wedding planners who are okay with doing this,” she told First Coast News. She asked McCord and her partner to take their business elsewhere. The couple took revenge by launching a social media assault against the company. Within hours, Rusev was inundated with threats and negative business reviews.

In a January 16, 2015 Facebook post, Rusev also wrote the following:  

"For those who watched my interview with First Coast News I would like to fill you in on ALL of what I stated, not just the three lines they edited. It seemed like the media intended to tear us apart instead of bringing peace.

Because of my strong personal belief, I don't feel comfortable being involved and planning a wedding for same-sex couples.

With all due respect, I absolutely have nothing against these individuals. You have the right to live your lives as you please, But So Do I!

Planning a wedding for couples is very personal to me. It's [sic] not a product that I sell over the counter, it's [sic] a service that I [sic] provide with a passion.

I am not afraid to stand for what I believe. I will continue to stand my ground and not be bullied. Our Facebook has been swarmed by discriminating comments and negative reviews.

26 years ago my family and I fled a country that persecuted Christians for their belief. It's really sad to see America becoming more and more like these [sic] countries that so many of us once fled."

At time of publication, McCord and her partner had not threatened legal action. According to reports, McCord planned to add Simply Elegant Wedding Planning to a Facebook group page for lesbians that listed local business that were not “LGBT friendly.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Simply Elegant Event