Washington state sues florist who cites religious beliefs for refusing to serve gay couple
SEATTLE — Washington state's attorney general has filed a consumer protection action against an eastern state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, telling a longtime customer that it was “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The lawsuit seeks $2,000 in fines for each violation and an injunction requiring Arlene's Flowers to comply with the state's consumer protection laws, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The aborted transaction has caused a brouhaha in Washington, which legalized same-sex marriage in November but remains divided over the issue.
The gay marriage referendum passed largely because of a flood of support in liberal Seattle, while more conservative communities in eastern Washington had deep reservations. In Benton County, where Arlene's Flowers does business, 63 percent opposed it.
Since the March 1 incident in the town of Richland, a “Boycott Arlene's Flowers” Facebook page has shown up, while the shop's own Facebook page has been flooded with messages of support.
“Stand strong for what is healthy, right and Godly,” said one backer, while a critic wrote that “this is about the law… There is not an ‘I believe in Jesus so the laws don't apply to me' exemption.”
Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, had been buying flowers from Arlene's for nearly a decade when Ingersoll asked Barronelle Stutzman to provide flowers for their upcoming wedding in September, according to the couple's attorneys.
Stutzman, who declined to comment to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, said earlier on her Facebook page that she refused.
Stutzman said she believes “biblically” that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Ingersoll told the Tri-City Herald the encounter had been deeply troubling. “It really hurt because it was somebody I knew,” he said. “We laid awake all night Saturday. It was eating at our souls. There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work.”
In an announcement of the lawsuit Tuesday, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he had sent a letter to Stutzman before filing the suit asking her to reconsider, but she refused through her attorney.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nurse defies Maine quarantine in standoff over Ebola
- Museum saves part of bomber plant
- Few knew of cyber attack on White House computer network
- Unaccompanied immigrants put heavy strain on schools, charities
- Ebola virus could overwhelm health care system, AP finds
- Terminally ill woman may delay planned Nov. 1 suicide
- Inmate freed in landmark case
- 2 California deputies slain, suspect captured
- Thousands in Pacific Northwest remain in dark from windstorm
- Health-exchange subscribers have trouble finding doctors to accept their insurance
- 1st VA official gone under revised firing rules