Today, April 15, is Tax Day – the deadline by which every American resident must file taxes. It’s an ordinary, annual task for so many people, but as several recent news stories have shown, LGBTQ people can face a unique roadblock to doing their civic duty: Discrimination from businesses that prepare tax filings.
This year we’ve seen a few different news stories of same-sex couples who have experienced discrimination while attempting to file their taxes. In February, Debbie Beach and Kim Bowman went to a business in Houston, Texas to file their taxes; shortly after the married couple’s arrival, the tax assistant who uncomfortably greeted them excused himself and required one of his colleagues to file the return. “I asked her if the guy didn’t want to help us because we are a lesbian couple. Then I waited,” Debbie said. “When [the man’s colleague] finally spoke, she said, ‘Yes, it’s because you are gay.’ I was speechless.”
A separate incident happened outside of Kokomo, Indiana. Bailey Brazzel sought to file her taxes jointly with her newlywed wife, Samantha (pictured, above). But when the tax preparer learned that Bailey and Samantha were married, she turned the couple away, saying that she would not serve them.
Businesses open to the public and offering a service to everyone should serve everyone – but in a majority of the country, LGBTQ people are not protected from discrimination in businesses, restaurants, or other public places. Without state-level or federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in places of public accommodation, LGBTQ people will remain vulnerable to discrimination like what Debbie & Kim and Bailey & Samantha faced.
The irony of the discrimination in these instances of discrimination from businesses that prepare taxes is that the lack of protections for LGBTQ people essentially threatened to block these same-sex couples from paying their fair share into the national enterprise. When that happens, everyone loses. These stories are a reminder that discrimination does not only hurt LGBTQ Americans – it hurts all Americans.
Freedom for All Americans Education Fund spoke with Bailey and Samantha to learn more about their experience facing discrimination in Indiana. Read the interview below:
FFAAEF: What was your reaction when the business owner told you that they would not serve you because you are married to a woman?
BAILEY BRAZZEL: It was surprising, because I’ve known this woman on a business basis for five years. She’s always done my taxes, and we never had any issues. We figured we were just getting our taxes done, no big deal. Even when Sam moved up here last year, we went to her, and I introduced her as my girlfriend, and she didn’t say anything. [Note: The tax preparer released a statement to the press admitting to the discrimination: “I am a Christian and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. … For many years I have had several gay clients. I still have gay clients. A few years ago, I had a couple of gay clients that married. When it was time to prepare their taxes they called me and asked if I had a problem since they were married. I told them that as a Christian that I could not prepare their taxes.”]
We spread the word to our friends online and said, ‘Hey, if you’re not OK with this [discrimination], don’t use this service.’ And then the same day, we found another service and didn’t have any issues.
FFAAEF: You live in Kokomo, where a municipal ordinance protects LGBTQ people from discrimination like this. Why was this discrimination from the tax preparer still permitted?
BB: We live in Kokomo – but the tax preparer is based outside of the city limits, and LGBTQ people aren’t fully protected from discrimination like this at the state level in Indiana, nor at the federal level. To us, this shows that the patchwork of protections isn’t working. The fact that we can drive minutes outside of Kokomo and face discrimination for something as ordinary as filing our taxes is unacceptable.
FFAAEF: Why did you want to spread the word about what happened to you?
BB: Samantha and I felt bad after being denied service – but at the end of the day, we were able to remedy our issue and find another tax preparer. As bad as it was, it was pretty minor. Not all discrimination is so easily fixed. A lot of worse things happen to people every day: Think about the LGBTQ people who are fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or denied care at a medical facility.
We’re pretty quiet people, and we keep to ourselves. But there are so many people this happens to, and the word doesn’t get out. So we wanted to send the message that this isn’t OK. We wanted to use what happened to us for good, to raise awareness. We felt that if we didn’t say anything, we’d just be contributing to the problem. If we just let it go, then we would be giving up, and that’s not helpful for anyone.
Join Bailey and Samantha in speaking out against anti-LGBTQ discrimination by clicking here and signing the pledge to support federal nondiscrimination protections! Federal legislation like the Equality Act will ensure that no one is left vulnerable to discrimination based on who they are or who they love.