Richland, Washington — A Christian florist in Washington has been slammed with a second lawsuit for declining to decorate the homosexual wedding of a longtime client.
As previously reported, Baronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland was leveled with a lawsuit last month by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who claims that she violated the law by not fulfilling the order. Stutzman had been approached in March by one of her faithful customers, Robert Ingersoll, a homosexual, as he wanted her to supply the flowers for his upcoming ceremony with his partner, Curt. She states that she politely explained that she would not be able to help in regard to the event.
“I just took his hands and said, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman told reporters.
Ingersoll said that he was surprised by her words.
“I would send bouquets [to my partner] saying, ‘love Rob, to Kurt,’ so it came as a shock to me because I’ve had a 9-year relationship with Barronelle, and have never thought there was a reason that she wouldn’t,” he stated. “I makes me want to cry thinking about it. I respect her.”
After Ingersoll decided to post on Facebook about the matter, controversy arose on both sides of the issue — both for and against Stutzman. The florist said that she received a number of threatening and angry comments.
“It blew way out of proportion,” Stutzman explained. “I’ve had hate mail. I’ve had people that want to burn my building. I’ve had people that will never shop here again and [vow to] tell all their friends.”
Weeks later, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued Stutzman a letter advising that she must accommodate homosexual ceremonies or be subject to a lawsuit and heavy fines.
“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” he wrote. “This means that as a seller of goods or services, you will not refuse to sell floral arrangements for same-sex weddings if you sell floral arrangements for opposite-sex weddings.”
He included with his letter a form that offered Stutzman the opportunity to recant and agree to comply with the law. She refused, and was subsequently met with a lawsuit.
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington has also filed against the florist, this time on behalf of Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed. Spokesman Doug Honig told reporters that beliefs must be separated from actions in the workplace.
“Everybody is entitled to their own private religious beliefs and the ACLU respects that strongly,” he stated. “But a business open to the public cannot use religion as a reason to justify discriminating.”
However, Stutzman’s attorney, Justin Bristol, says that it is constitutionally impermissible to force an individual to violate their convictions.
“She is one of the few people left today willing to stand by her convictions rather than compromise her beliefs,” he told reporters. “She’s a very nice lady and doesn’t have a discriminatory bone in her body, but she doesn’t want to be forced to participate in an event that she doesn’t believe in.”
The ACLU is seeking monetary damages for the two men for declining to provide flowers for their same-sex ceremony.