Clinton Brentwood Lee, 33, said he wanted to make a statement — that his business, Brentwood Photography which is based in St. Petersburg, Fla., supports marriage equality. It was met with praise — and criticism, particularly from a client who disagreed with his view.
“Greetings Brentwood,” the client wrote. “We would just like to inform you that we will NOT be using your services for our wedding. My fiance and I support traditional marriage between a man and a woman and don’t want our money going to places that supports otherwise. Secondly I would like to inquire about how we can get our retainer back from you.”
Lee’s “snarkiness kicked in,” he told The Washington Post in a phone interview, and he told the client he would donate her retainer to the gay-rights group GLAAD. “My mom says I’m not one to sit quietly in a corner,” he said.
“Wow, I’m not really sure what to say here,” he replied to the client. “I would say this disappoints me, but I actually find this to be a good thing because our company now would not like to work with you as well. It’s not that because you have a different view from us, but it’s because, since you don’t like and support gay marriage, no one else should be able to have it. … Personally, I was taught not to judge others and to love everyone else. So I will try not to judge you here and say anything more as to my opinion of you.”
“I hope you’ll read the first article in the contract you signed stating that this retainer is nonrefundable,” he added. “But don’t worry, I’m not going to keep it! Because of this conversation, I have decided to donate your $1,500 to GLAAD, a group created to help and support gay rights. So let me be the first to say … thank you very much for your donation and support for this great cause!”
“I just don’t see marriage being anything beyond marriage,” Lee told The Post. “There’s not black people marriage or white people marriage. It’s just marriage.”
He took a screen shot of the correspondence — retracting the client’s name — and posted it on social media, saying, “Lost a client for supporting gay marriage. But that’s ok!” Since then, it has been liked nearly 81,000 times on Facebook.
“I kind of posted it because I didn’t want to feel alone,” he said. “I wanted to feel justified.”
Soon, commenters started responding, many thanking Lee for “sharing the look of love.” “I wish I could get married all over again, just to hire you!” one wrote. “God Bless the work you do, the love you share, and you strength of character!”
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The business reply heard 'round the world! Lol I hope in the scheme of life this isn't the one thing I am known for but I am happy I took a stand. The only thing I wish I had changed on this photo screen shot is where it says I support "Gay Marriage". While I 100% do, I wish I had just said that I support marriage opportunity for all. We shouldn't have to call it "gay marriage" like it is something different. It's just marriage. Like it is between a man or a woman or a black person and a white person. Ever person on this planet deserves their own happy ever after, even if it is different from your view of it. Don't like "gay marriage" that's cool, don't get "gay married"! But don't try to stop a company who believes everyone deserves to be happy. PLEASE NOTE: Yes I realize I could have handled this differently or more professionally, but I have always been known to be an artist with freely expressed feelings and my uniqueness. I will never stop being me. I will continue to love everyone. #loveislove #love #marriage #lgbt #glad #lovewins #standup #pride #istandwithyou #kcco www.BrentwoodPhotography.com
Lee posted another message Sunday on Instagram, saying his only regret was that he referred to “gay marriage.” “I wish I had just said that I support marriage opportunity for all,” he wrote. “We shouldn’t have to call it “gay marriage” like it is something different. It’s just marriage.”
After Lee’s post, he said he started getting hundreds of messages, “10 percent awful and 90 percent nice.” Among the “awful” was a message from the unhappy client.
“Companies like yours are the reason our country is falling apart!” the client wrote, according to BuzzFeed News. “Supporting these people and groups like you’re doing only further their agenda and are slowly ruining this once great country and destroying families. Certainly happy we chose not to do business with you. Good luck with the queers.”
“I’m sorry you feel this way,” Lee responded. “I know there is no changing your mind and it seems quite clear we were not the right choice for you. As per your request you have been taken out of the books. I wish you the best of luck in finding a photographer to fit your special needs.”
Lee said he is straight and holds conservative as well as liberal views.
In 2010, he spoke to The Post at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C. “Someone said in the Revolutionary War, they fired bullets. This time, we’re firing politicians,” he said at the time.
Early Tuesday morning, Lee said that he and his business’s support for same-sex marriage has little to do with politics; it simply has to do with humanity.
“I hope one day we’ll live in a world where we’ll just say, ‘Hey we’re getting marriage,’ and it won’t matter who you are,” he said. “I hope with my camera I can show we’re all not that different. We all want love. We all want our happily ever after.”