Etsy Shop Owner Refuses Same-Sex Couple’s Marriage Business, Claiming “Christian” Values


Founded in 2005, conjures images of virtual hippie stores selling home-made ceramics and rainbow-scented candles. The E-commerce site even brags that it is “bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more durable, and more fun.”

But apparently that’s not universally the case. One particular owner allegedly is hawking right-wing antipathy to marriage equality.

Jami Howard was searching for guest book covers for her own same-sex nuptials when she happened upon Paledesigns, which featured Mickey ears and balloons on happy couples. What started as cordial back and forth with the owner, identified on the shop page as Jessica Fong, went awry when Howard revealed that she had a same-sex partner.

Then she received the following message:

Hi Jami,

Sorry for the late reply!

After talking with my pastor and praying about the situation, I decided that I shouldn’t design your guestbook for you.

Please know that I did take this into much thought though. Because I am a Christian and I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, I feel that designing a customized guestbook for you two will be against my belief and will mean that who I am and my business supports gay marriages.

I hope that you understanding [sic]. Sorry for staying in contact with you for so long and not giving you a concrete response until now.

We just love that Ms. Fong is apologetic for her slow response but not for denigrating the priceless, happy occasion of a fellow human being. We also love that she seems to think that simple exclusion and cruelty are “Christian” principles. For the sake of the future of religion, we hope that is not the case.

Attempts to reach Fong were not immediately successful, but in an email exchange with Queerty, Howard expressed shock at the refusal of service:

I was completely outraged at the fact that I was “seemingly” having a pleasant conversation with this shop owner about creating an image to be a part of our guest book. The first couple of messages I sent were just talking about how excited we were because we both love Disney and this theme looked perfect for our special day, with some minor changes. When I dropped the “Gay” bomb, things completely changed. I just wonder if there is anything that itself has to say about this kind of discrimination. If sexual orientation can be discriminated against on Etsy, what other kinds of discrimination are they also okay with shop owners getting away with? Also, newsflash: Disney loves the gays. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. Etsy provided no outlet for us to leave a comment or anything like that so we (my fiance’ Lindsay and I) took to the Facebook.

Etsy’s terms of service allow shop owners to refuse service as long as they communicate clearly with potential buyers. But it also reserves the right to suspend shops that abuse the privilege. Isn’t discrimination an abuse? After all, there is no rational basis for it. And it actually goes against the company’s mission statement of making commerce and the world “more fair.”

Et tu, Etsy… ?

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  • 2eo

    Let her know what you think about her discrimination directly.

    EMAIL [email protected]

  • Caleb in SC

    Dear Jess, I hope your Christian values also apply to every other facet of your life. Do you refuse to eat at establishments that have LGBT employees? Have you asked your accountants, doctors, lawyers and other professionals their sexual orientation so that you do not promote their sin? Have you personally vetted every company from which you buy products to make sure that no gayness has tainted your purchases? If not, then screw you, you are a hypocrite.

  • Ottoman

    Just checked her website and she’s got fake Muppets on her homepage. Does she have a license from Disney or the Muppets to reproduce or copy their work?

  • queerfrog

    Jessica Fong’s religious policy is hypocritical and self-serving. Disney Parks have had gay wedding packages for nearly six years, yet she uses Disney imagery in many of her products. In fact, Disney has a long record for being LGBT-friendly. Also, Fong’s “artwork” is entirely illegal. Even bakeries are required to have a license to sell cakes with copyrighted characters on them. None of the 10 Commandments address gay people, but one speaks directly to theft. By her own convictions, it is she who is the sinful party in this transaction. Fong has every right to refuse her services and Etsy has a right to allow her to sell her wares, but the trademark infringement should be enough to get her booted. I hope she receives a cease and desist letter! Report her for that.

  • Caleb in SC

    @queerfrog: Tell her that!!! I sent her an email basically saying what I said in my post.

  • LansdaleRichieRich

    For those so called “Christians” who are saying this nation can not allow gay marriage, please think about this. Did God once tell us as Christians to condemn someone because of who they are? Or to criticize or bash them because they are different. No, we are to love all unconditionally. Homosexuality, yes, is a sin according to the bible. But so is gambling, prostitution, coveting, lying, lust, all things Americans do. It is not our job to correct our nation we live in, but to take what we are given, and to make the best of it, and to live your life caring, and loving, not with hatefulness. So before we all get rattled up on how it’s a sin and they are living a “life of sin” as some say, aren’t you sinning by pointing out someone else’s sin? So let’s stop being hateful, and love, because that’s what we’re called to do, love.

  • paulypants

    My partner and I are getting married in June and just ordered our wedding rings from a wonderful Etsy artist, who is much more deserving of business than Jessica:

  • jwrappaport

    @2eo: Damn you’re good. You must be some kind of gay mafia consiglieri. *Angry email sent*

  • DarkZephyr

    What the Marriage Equality movement is looking for is equality in the eyes of the law and of our Government. We are always maintaining to our detractors that we are not trying to force our views onto those who do not agree with us. We tell people “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married”, etc. That message, in my humble opinion, gets sort of lost when we get too aggressive with businesses like this who refuse service to us. I am all for boycotting her, trust me. If we aren’t wanted, none of us nor our allies should give our money to these people, BUT I just don’t thing getting too publicly “outraged” and angry and up in arms over this is the best way to go about it. We support freedom, for one thing. She should be free to be as big a douche as she wants to be (just as we are free to snub her business), but lets not make martyrs of these people. That could just work to their advantage on several fronts. Marriage equality foes will just say “Oooh look, those queers ARE trying to push their agenda on everyone just as we have been saying all along!” and her co-religionists will just make her into a living Saint and hero and make us out to be the tormenting demons.

  • 2eo

    Am I the only one getting sick of seeing these apologists for these disgusting, disgraceful, hateful, anti human people every time a post of them refusing to acknowledge us as people appear.

    I wish they’d fuck off. We’re sick of them, their politique has failed, and always will.

  • DarkZephyr

    @2eo: 2eo, I am not an “apologist” for people like this at all. Nowhere in my post did I excuse what she did, and I also voiced my support for boycotting her. But I don’t think turning into EXACTLY what our enemies say we are is the answer to this situation. I am for being a little bit more dignified about this than sending cussing nasty grams and trying to strong arm her into compliance. The Right and our religious enemies will just use this against us.

  • 2eo

    Hooray for the completely arbitrary censoring of my posts. I can’t even figure out what word out of this list is forcing the post into moderation.

    I’d post a screenshot of my blocked post but I’m at work and they don’t like me using the metadata removal programs, and because for obvious reasons I prefer to keep my information in a concrete vault you’ll just have to have me ask without the links.

    “Why aren’t you posting this in these threads?, why do you refuse to have a consistent opinion, and only pick your apologist rhetoric in easy posts where you can play the victim card?”

    There was then a list of links to other articles on Queerty posted recently that I feel your cowardly victim card apologism would be better suited too

  • alexoloughlin

    I hope Ms. Fong would agree that gay businesses should be able to discriminate against ‘christians’ who are opposed to equal marriage simply because their’s conflict with ours?

  • DarkZephyr

    @2eo: If your latest post is still directed at me, it makes no logical sense. I played no “victim card”, cowardly or otherwise. I am for being wise about this, how that translates to playing the “victim card” or being an apologist for homophobes is beyond me.

  • BritAus

    After “praying about the situation”
    FARK OFF !!
    Sorry I’m so sick of these nutjobs … “oh I don’t don’t know what I should do, I need to pray about it” Translation: “I’m so pathetic and weak that I don’t believe in myself I need to run to the church and let them make decisions for me”
    Stupid c*#t!

  • alexoloughlin

    @2eo: I just emailed her asking her to let me know if she would support gay businesses having the right to discriminate against ‘christians’ of her belief so that the residents of Walnut, CA can be alerted to her business practices. I”d be surprised if she responds.

  • 2eo

    @alexoloughlin: I just passed on a list of her past products and services she offers to the Disney legal department. She has stolen from them, and she should be punished in accordance with breaking the actual commandment from the book.

  • DarkZephyr

    Has she removed her items? I can’t seem to find what she sells on her etsy page.

  • Gigi Gee

    “I feel that designing a customized guestbook for you two will be against my belief and will mean that” I AM SUPPORTING YOUR SINFUL LIFESTYLE AND THAT I WILL BE SAYING IT’S OK THAT YOU, YOUR “WIFE” AND ALL WHO SUPPORT YOU WILL FOREVER BURN IN HELL. It’s not okay. Okay?

    That’s essentially what she’s saying. Nice to know that she actually took the time to discuss the matter with her pastor and gawd. That makes the pain of rejection much easier to digest.

  • DarkZephyr

    @2eo: OK TY.

    I like the notion of going after her based on her inconsistencies and stealing. If she claims to base her discriminatory practices on “Christian values”, then she should also apply such values to thievery. I also liked what Caleb asked, about whether or not she applies these “values” to every facet of her life. Does she check to make sure EVERYONE she has any financial dealings with is heterosexual? I doubt it. I am not against hitting her where it hurts, I just think thought needs to be put into it.

  • tdx3fan

    I would much rather have someone refuse me their business and let me know that they are a homophobe than to sell me their product then donate my money to a homophobic cause.

    The owner has the right to refuse to sell based on her religious beliefs, and that is why the newer proposals for gay marriage laws all have religious exclusions. Personally, I think if you are that worried about your perfect day being ruined because you do not have the perfect guest registry cover then you passed Bridezilla a few steps back.

  • DarkZephyr

    She has monsters on her iPhone wallpapers. Some zealots might say she promotes demons.

  • DarkZephyr

    @tdx3fan: While I concur with what you say here, I think we have every right to boycott the hell out of her. Not just gays, who’s business she refuses, but our heterosexual allies as well. And calling her out on her inconsistencies is perfectly reasonable as well, in my view.

  • tdx3fan

    @2eo: Am I the only one that is getting sick and tired of seeing this site flooded with the “poor me” crowd every time something happens that the gay community does not like!?! Seriously, stop playing the victim. Someone refused to sell their product to you. Oh well! Buy it from someone else. There are a lot more problems to concern yourself with. Learn to pick and choose your battles.

  • tdx3fan

    @DarkZephyr: My guess is that he is talking about the stuff that people normally call him out on!

  • Ottoman

    @tdx3fan: “The owner has the right to refuse to sell based on her religious beliefs, and that is why the newer proposals for gay marriage laws all have religious exclusions.”

    –Clearly you have no idea how anti-discrimination laws work. Selling wedding books is a commercial endeavor, not a religious practice. The gay marriage law religious exemptions are fluffy unnecessary bits of nonsense meant to appease bigots. Churches, in the practice of their religion, are already exempted from performing marriage ceremonies for any couple they don’t want to thanks to the first amendment of the Constitution. Ms. Fong, with her stolen Disney art, is not a church.

  • tdx3fan

    @DarkZephyr: A boycott is one thing. Demanding that we cut off her head because of her beliefs makes us look truly insane and irrational.

  • Ottoman

    @tdx3fan: “Am I the only one that is getting sick and tired of seeing this site flooded with the “poor me” crowd every time something happens that the gay community does not like!?! Seriously, stop playing the victim. Someone refused to sell their product to you. Oh well! Buy it from someone else. There are a lot more problems to concern yourself with. Learn to pick and choose your battles.”

    And those stupid black men should have just eaten somewhere else instead of getting hosed down on the sidewalks in front of “whites only” restaurants.

  • tdx3fan

    @Ottoman: Truly you do not understand how the courts work. Any lawyer would have a field day with this one. Gay marriage is not legal in California at the moment. That opens a door. Also, the laws have sided with the religious organizations time and time again in similar cases. Also, gays and lesbians are not a protected class in the VAST majority of states, and your stupidity in regards to FORCING businesses to sell non-essential products to people they do not agree with is one of the reasons I have a problem supporting non-discrimination laws.

    Ask yourself this: Should a gay company be forced to sell its product to Westboro Baptist Church!?! It is the exact same concept!

  • tdx3fan

    @Ottoman: You are comparing apples to oranges (actually, you are doing worse but still). If this was more wide spread or the items in question were actually necessary to survive and it was a major company then I would be up in arms. However, this is a mostly isolated incident from a small retailer of an unimportant item. It really does not matter other than to allow gays to be outraged at yet another fake issue while ignoring real ones.

  • continuum

    @2eo: Thanks for the email link. Just sent her my thoughts regarding how wrong her actions are.

  • continuum

    @tdx3fan: Last time I check, the religious exclusions apply to churches and not to shops selling bridal books. Let me know the next time that this bigot conducts has church services and all purchases are actual charitable donations. A business is not the same as a church.

  • Ottoman

    @tdx3fan: Should a gay company be forced to sell its product to Westboro? Yes, since they are engaged in commerce. How about an ice cream truck refusing to sell to black kids because their firmly held religious belief is that the Bible says they should be slaves? Ice cream isn’t essential to life.

    But thanks for showing everyone how ignorant you are of the laws. Do you work for NOM, because you’ve got their fake religious arguments down pat. Ms. Fong is not a religious organization and she’s definitely not engaging in a religious practice by selling something for profit.

    There were plenty of places a black man could get a meal in 1955. But you continue playing Uncle Tom while others work to gain the freedoms you take for granted.

  • Cam

    This isn’t about being “Christian” if it was they wouldn’t do business with people who are divorced or people who were unmarried and not virgins.

    So enough that what phony excuse. It’s just simple bigotry.

  • Lindsay

    @Ottoman: we love you!

  • Futurehouse

    I reported her to the Disney Intellectual Property tipline.

  • DarkZephyr

    @tdx3fan: I agree, I believe that we need to be calm and wise about how we react to this type of descrimination.

    @Cam: Excellent point, she is likely inconsistent in that manner as well.

  • Alexa

    It’s good that people reported her to Disney for copyright infringement, they take it very seriously. Copyright infringement is actually theft, so apparently her Christian values don’t extend to the ten commandments.

  • Joe

    The thing about these “conscious clauses” that Christians trot out when they want to discriminate against gay people is that it goes both ways, no pun intended. I mean, if they get to discriminate based on “strongly held beliefs”, don’t we? I mean, can’t I then refuse service, goods or business to someone who is against gay marriage? After all, I feel very strongly about it. Would Jessica be ok with that? Somehow…I doubt it.

  • 2eo

    @tdx3fan: So as well as hating Transgendered individuals and outright demanding they go fuck themselves in another post a few on from this article you also seem to have no grasp of not only actual law, but also accepted social inclusion and norms of the service industry.

    I think we can file what you think under “worthless”, as you clearly have serious self loathing issues with yourself so you can not be trusted to offer anything intelligent when discussing issues with people who are sure of themselves.

  • Thomas

    This is a non-story. A lot of to do about nothing. If a business doesn’t want my money, then there are others that do. Vote with your dollars! Move on…

  • MK Ultra

    For those demanding we “let it go” because “it’s unimportant”, have you ever heard the expression “give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile”?

    When you say to ‘phobes that it’s okay to discriminate against us in little ways, it becomes easier for them to demand a little more. Than a little more, and a little more until everybody has the right to discriminate against us for any reason.

    I’m not saying this is some major fight for us but hate is like a weed.
    You don’t mind until it grows and over runs your whole garden

  • erikwm

    @tdx3fan: You’re pretty pathetic.

    If it is the sincerely held religious belief of a Muslim restaurant owner that Jews are infidels, can he refuse service to any Jew?

    No, he can not. Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that is illegal. Your religious beliefs do not give you carte blanche to discriminate in public accommodations against any class who disagrees with your beliefs. The 1964 Civil Rights Act does not currently cover sexual orientation, but it should.

  • 2eo

    Hey. My post [No. 1] also contained the address of the company, why was the post edited?

    I know it wasn’t praising mormons and posting about how gay parents are bad [as seems to be policy here] but I feel I deserve an explanation for what is actually legitimate censorship.

  • Ottoman

    Looks like Ms. Fong deleted her website and Facebook page. Well done folks! Lets see if Disney still decides to take action, though we may never know unless Haggie Gallagher and her Marriage anti-defamation league decide to take up the case. Love to see Mickey Mouse stomp the NOMbies!

    @Lindsay: I love you too Lindsay!

  • 2eo

    @Ottoman: Her facebook page and blog have received absolutely nothing offensive whatsoever.

    Seems she is rattled at the fact people out there are willing to call her on her bigotry. Maybe this will act as a lesson, bigotry isn’t acceptable, especially from a business.

  • DarkZephyr

    @Nicole: Nicole, beautiful stuff! If my beloved and I are ever able to marry, I will definitely look you up. Thank you for being an ally!

  • Cyn

    Small business can do as it likes. Not smart but there you go. She should have just declined for busyness and returned the money. Idiot.

  • seraphimblade

    Those who operate a business open to the general public operate a “place of public accommodation”. As such, they are forbidden from certain types of discrimination by law, including gender discrimination.

    If a given business refused service to a woman because she’s a woman, they would be on the hook for gender discrimination, and rightfully so. If a given business refused service to a couple because one is black and one is white, they would be on the hook for racial discrimination, and rightfully so. Why, then, should we not hold a business accountable for gender discrimination because they refuse service to two women because they are both women?

  • kelehe

    I tried the link to her Etsy site and it says:
    “Uh oh! Sorry, the member you are looking for does not exist.”

  • Nicole

    @DarkZephyr: Thanks for the compliment! I started the business after I designed my own civil union from invites to reception. Luckily I had a good experience and didn’t have to deal with negative people.

  • artb

    It’s amazing how suddenly Christians are supposed to accept everyone and everything no matter what the circumstance and people quickly quote the Bible, or rather misquote, in the hope they can convince others and themselves that being gay is a good thing. It was wrong when the Bible was written and it’s still wrong today so stop trying to shove “being gay” down everyone’s throat when Christians have values that differ from yours. America was founded on Christian principles and being a “mixed” culture does NOT mean we have to abandon our Christian principles. If you don’t like the values associated with being a Christian, then keep your mouth shut until you’re smart enough to know better. Just because someone doesn’t feel comfortable with providing services to gays, it does NOT mean they’re discriminating against them; they simply believe it goes against their Christian values; a right that seems to not matter to those against Christian principles and/or gays. Being gay doesn’t automatically give gays “rights” just as being a pedophile doesn’t give them rights do do what they wish either. The boundaries of right and wrong still exist, but they’re being blurred for the sake of convenience while attempting to make every situation seem acceptable. We were all put here for a reason, those who don’t or choose not to believe in God are only fooling themselves!

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