A same-sex couple from St. John's is upset after discovering the jewelry store that sold them their engagement rings has posted a sign that seems to oppose same-sex marriage but one of the store's owners says he's allowed to post his religious beliefs.
When Nicole White and Pam Renouf went looking for engagement rings a few months ago, the pair couldn't find anything they liked. The couple was eventually referred to Today's Jewellers in the Mount Pearl area because the store offers custom-made rings.
White and Renouf visited the store and later gave specifications and a price range for potential rings.
"They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple," White said.
"I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices."
That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend and instead found a distressing sign.
It reads: "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman."
'It was really upsetting'
The friend took a picture of the poster, which made its way back to White.
"I had no idea about the sign up until that point," she said.
"It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman."
The couple went to the store the following day, and asked about the sign.
"They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund," White said.
"I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business."
White and Renouf hope to get a refund when the man who sold them the rings returns to town next month but it's not guaranteed.
White said the rings were meant to be a symbol of love, but now the bands seem tainted.
"I think every time I look at that ring, I'll probably think of what we just went through," White said.
Esau Jardon, the co-owner of Today's Jewellers, said he posts several signs in his store throughout the year.
"I have been posting different aspects of my religious beliefs the last 11 years, and I've never had one single problem with any of my customers," he said.
"It seems to be a Canadian right to post what you believe."
Jardon said the sign in question was posted for Mother's Day, because it had to do with families. They also have pamphlets and cards that they hand out at the store as well.
Jardon said he's an immigrant, and feels blessed to live in Canada.
"One of the reasons my family chose to come to Canada was the freedom of rights," he said, noting the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
"Nothing in that shop or in these posters is against the law... There's nothing there that means to discriminate or to hate anybody else."
Jardon said he won't apologize for his beliefs.
"I feel really bad that [White] feels that we would in any way try to hurt or discriminate against her, but we will not retract from what we believe. I cannot say, 'Well because you feel bad, I will stop believing what I believe,'" he said.
"When I walk on Church Street in Toronto, where I am right now, and I see [LGBT rainbow flags], and I see a lot of signs and a lot of things on public property, I don't have a problem with them. I accept it. I chose to come to Canada... and we accept the whole package... I don't discriminate against that, nor do I come and tell them to take them down. For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it's in my own business."
Jardon said he's getting a big backlash from social media.
"I had to shut down the Facebook page because of so many hate emails and phone calls and just, really nasty stuff," he said.
When asked if he would offer a refund to the couple, Jardon said he won't be bullied into apologizing for his beliefs or to work for free.
He said the finished rings are ready to be picked up; White and Renouf just have to pay the balance.