W.W. Bridal Boutique is no stranger to controversy.
The shop in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, caught widespread attention in 2014 when an employee told a lesbian couple looking for wedding gowns that the owner “[does] not service same-sex couples.”
“We feel we have to answer to God for what we do,” store owner Victoria Miller, a Christian, told The Press Enterprise in Bloomsburg. “And providing those two girls dresses for a sanctified marriage would break God’s law.”
Reactions to the incident ranged from outrage at the bridal shop to full support for the business. Now it's happening again.
A lesbian couple from West Pittston, Pennsylvania — Shannon Kennedy and Julie Ann Samanas — traveled to W.W. Bridal on July 8 in search of a wedding dress for their planned March 2018 nuptials, according to the Philadelphia Gay News.
Samanas, 30, told PGN that on a form "where it said ‘Groom,’ we crossed it out and wrote ‘Bride’ and put Shannon’s name down." But after a woman at the shop reviewed the form, she asked if the dress was for a same-sex wedding, the outlet said.
“She said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re Christian and we don’t believe in that; our faith doesn’t let us believe in that,’” Kennedy, 34, told PGN, adding that she and Samanas didn't challenge what they were told and left.
Once the story hit the news, W.W. Bridal got hit with a ton of angry backlash, including a Facebook page dedicated to boycotting the shop.
Rich Penkoski, a pastor who said he's assisting the bridal shop as they deal with the reactions, sent TheBlaze on Monday two recordings he said were left on the shop's voice mail.
"You stupid f***in' bigots. We're coming for you and your families. We're gonna tear your shop apart and make you feel as bad as you've made people feel," a man's voice is heard saying. "You f***in' bigot scum. You're goin' down and so is all your employees and their families. You're done!"
The second voice mail: "You people are f***ing trash. Your fake Christianity is not gonna save you from the fallout of this. Bigots go to hell, even though we don't believe in such a thing. You're going to f***ing hell you f***ing liars. Fake Christian a***oles."
It isn't clear if the same person is speaking in both messages.
W.W. Bridal soon changed their operating status to "appointments only," and Penkoski said he and his staff volunteered to administer the shop's Facebook page so employees wouldn't have to deal with angry comments.
But Penkoski told TheBlaze that W.W. Bridal's Facebook page is now "unpublished" since "it got so bad that they literally wanted things to calm down and go away."
TheBlaze on Monday reached out to the shop for its perspective on the wedding gown dustup but didn't immediately hear back.
But Miller, the shop owner, told the Huffington Post in an email last week that W.W. Bridal's stance isn't “an attempt to deprive anyone of the opportunity to live their lives as they see fit” but a matter of her spiritual beliefs.
“We have provided formalwear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity,” she wrote, the Post said. “It is just this event, a same-sex marriage, which we cannot participate in due to our personal convictions.”
Miller added, “We simply ask that we be given the same ability to live our lives according to our convictions," the Post reported.
Penkoski told TheBlaze he believes Kennedy and Samanas "specifically targeted" W.W. Bridal given its documented stance on same-sex marriage and noted the long distance between West Pittston and Bloomsburg — an hour-plus drive: "Who goes out of their way" like that? Penkowski asked.
But Kennedy on Monday told TheBlaze that she and Samanas chose W.W. Bridal because "we were in Berwick (the town I grew up in) for a family party that day, which is the next town over" from Bloomsburg. In addition, they made another appointment that same day, July 8, at a shop in Bloomsburg, as well as an appointment in Berwick.
"We had no idea what we were walking into, when walking into that store," she added to TheBlaze. "We simply were shopping around."
The Christian Post reported that unlike other states, Pennsylvania's discrimination laws don't protect gays and lesbians from getting fired or being denied service or housing on the basis of their sexual orientation.
This story has been updated.