As Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg, a same-sex couple from Australia, made arrangements for their September wedding in Butler County, Pennsylvania, they designed programs on Vistaprint and patiently waited for them to arrive. On the night before their hillside ceremony, they opened the box, which they thought was full of their custom programs, and found something else instead.
According to a federal suit filed in Massachussetts, “When Mr. Heasley and Mr. Borg opened the Vistaprint package, they were horrified to find that Vistaprint had not shipped their customized wedding package. Instead, Vistaprint shipped them approximately 80 copies of a discriminatory pamphlet entitled: ‘Understanding Temptation: Fight the good fight of the faith.’” The couple is suing for unspecified damages.
The Australian couple had spent $79.49 on about 100 programs, which were supposed to contain the lyrics to their processional song, “Treasure,” by Above and Beyond. Heasley and Borg had gone to a concert featuring the English electronic-dance music group the day they got engaged. In the box they were sent from Vistaprint, there were no sentimental lyrics to be found.
“Rather than send plaintiffs the custom wedding programs they had purchased, Vistaprint instead sent plaintiffs literature with hateful, discriminatory, and anti-gay messages equating their relationship to Satan’s temptation,” according to the lawsuit, which targets both Vistaprint and the “John Doe” who was allegedly responsible.
The couple had to shell out even more money to print their own programs just hours before they planned to walk down the aisle.
“Vistaprint would never discriminate against customers for their sexual orientation. We pride ourselves on being a company that celebrates diversity and enables customers all over the world to customize products for their special events,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
“We have just been made aware of this incident in the last few hours,” the spokesperson continued. “We understand how upsetting it would be for anyone to receive materials such as these the night before their wedding and we have immediately launched an internal investigation.”
As their lawyer, Michael J. Willemin, of the law firm Wigdor LLP, pointed out, “This case presents a particularly egregious example of a company refusing to provide equal services to members of the LBGTQ community.”
Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple there. As of early December, the court still appeared to be split on the case.
In a statement about their nightmare experience with Vistaprint, Heasley and Borg said, “Our goal is to hold Vistaprint accountable for the harm they have caused…and to send a message that there will be consequences for acts of hate perpetrated against others.”
VistaPrint CEOs issued an open letter to their customers and partners today, stating:
"Yesterday, we learned that a same sex couple who were married in Pennsylvania in September of last year ordered 100 custom wedding programs from Vistaprint and instead, received pamphlets expressing intolerance and judgment.
We want to say how incredibly saddened we are to hear this story. To know that any person could be treated in such a way especially during a time that should be filled with joy is extremely disheartening. Imagine a customer who took the time to create something personal to mark this special day and instead, the day before their wedding, goes to open their wedding programs and finds these judgmental messages. We have never been more disappointed to let a customer down.
We share in this couple’s outrage. Vistaprint in no way condones – and does not tolerate – discrimination against any of our customers based on their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We have encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to use our services to help celebrate their life events for many years, and have published thousands of wedding invitations, programs and other content for same sex couples.
As an organization, we support diversity and reject discrimination in all forms. We have taken the following steps in response to this incident:
-We have begun a complete investigation to determine how and why the couple received these materials. If we determine that any Vistaprint employee or partner had any role in this situation, we will take strong action.
-We have communicated with all Vistaprint team members and reaffirmed our commitment to equality and diversity for all of our customers and employees.
-We have begun to plan how we can use our global brand platform to share a message of support for same sex marriage and equality around the world.
We have reached out to the couple to express our outrage that this incident occurred, and sadness that this in any way diminished the joy of their wedding day memories. We are hoping to establish a dialogue with them so together we can use this incident as an opportunity to shine a light on important LGBTQ issues."