A family of five has caused controversy after refusing to leave a waitress a tip because they saw she had an LGBT equality tattoo.

Samantha Heaton, who has an equal sign in rainbow colours tattooed on her arm, received a note from the family.

"Can't tip someone who doesn't love Jesus! Bad tattoo," they wrote.

And despite racking up a bill of $60, the family refused to leave her the customary tip at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Rockport, Illinois.

Heaton's colleague posted a photo of the tattoo alongside the note on social media, with the comment: "Just a reminder, customers/people like this REALLY exist. LOVE IS LOVE."

"I went above and beyond for this couple, and for them to leave that [note] kind of hurt,' Heaton told The Rock River Times. 'Like, I have bills to pay too.

"The kids are going to be under the impression that it will be OK to discriminate against anybody," she said.

"No matter how someone looks, you should love them for what's in their heart and how they treat you—not for what is on the outside. As someone who came out when it was still a battle for the LGBTQ community, that's just plain rude and uncalled for.

"What if one day their kids grow up and want to be with the same sex, are they going to disown them? Throw them on the street?"

People have offered to send Samantha tips since her story was posted on Facebook, but she has said any donations she receives will go to charity.