Washington Florist Refuses to Serve Same-sex Wedding; Faces Lawsuit

By:  Dave Bohon
04/11/2013
       
Washington Florist Refuses to Serve Same-sex Wedding; Faces Lawsuit

A Washington State florist is being sued by the state government for refusing to do business with a homosexual couple who wanted her to provide the flowers for the wedding ceremony.

Washington State's Attorney General announced that his office has filed a discrimination lawsuit against a state florist after she refused to serve a pair of homosexual men in their marriage ceremony. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said that it is his job “to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. Under the Consumer Protection Act it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service.” The Associated Press noted that the state's anti-discrimination law was updated in 2006 to include sexual orientation.

Problems began for Florist Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, after longtime customer Robert Ingersoll asked her to provide the flower arrangements for his September 2012 “wedding” with homosexual partner Curt Freed. “He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman told Seattlepi.com. She noted that it was the first time in 37 years that she had declined a wedding.

In a statement shortly after her refusal, Stutzman said Ingersoll “has been in many times and purchased flowers from us.” She added, however, that “when it came to doing his wedding, I said I could not do it because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. He thanked me and said he respected my opinion. We talked and gave each other a hug and he left.”

Ingersoll said he and Freed felt compelled to file a complaint against Stutzman, even though, he told the Kennewick, Washington Tri-City Herald, “We're both passionate about seeing people succeed and that nobody should be hurt or in pain.” He indicated, however, that his pain trumped Stutzman's. “This is one of those things — it's very hurtful,” he told the paper. “I probably haven't felt this much pain since I was in high school and people called me names, and I'm 42.” He added that “I'm not someone who wants to be in the limelight but it's kind of pushed [me] there.”

According to Seattlepi.com, Ingersoll and his partner have added to the florist's legal headaches by making a set of demands on her through the ACLU. According to the Seattle news site, ACLU attorney Michael Scott sent a letter to Stutzman laying out three conditions it would take to get Ingersoll and Freed to back off from a lawsuit they plan to file through the ACLU. They are:

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