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WA State Supreme Court unanimously rules against florist who refused flowers for same-sex wedding

WA State Supreme Court unanimously rules against florist who refused flowers for same-sex wedding

Curt Freed, left, and his husband Robert Ingersoll

Voters in Washington State affirmed same-sex marriage in 2012. Curt Freed & Richard Ingersoll, a committed couple since 2004, joined the many gay & lesbian couples who wanted to marry soon after the law went into effect. Richard Ingersoll had been a customer of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland WA for 9 years. Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s flowers, regularly made arrangements for both Richard and his partner Curt. She knew that they were a gay couple. They considered that Arlene’s was their florist. And they naturally wanted their wedding flowers from the shop. But when Richard approached Barronelle with their order, she told him that because of her relationship with Jesus Christ she could not make flower arrangements for his and Curt’s wedding.

With the assistance of the WA State ACLU, the couple sued Arlene’s Flowers and the owner for violating Washington’s anti-discrimination law, the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). In 2013 Stutzman was found to have violated the law by refusing to provide flowers for the couple’s wedding and fined. She has lost every step of the way as she appealed that original decision. Thursday she lost her final appeal in Washington State. In a unanimous decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, 16 FEB, that the lower court decision that she was in violation of WLAD was not a violation of her rights provided by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.

The decision, written by Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, ruled, “We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection. As applied to this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association.” Further, WLAD does not violate Stutzman’s “right to religious free exercise under the First Amendment, because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.” After the release of the decision, the WA State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, stated, “Sexual orientation is a protected class in exactly the same way as religion or race or age or any other protected class.”

We felt it was so important that we stand up against discrimination because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else.
– Statement by Curt Freed & Robert Ingersoll

Stutzman was represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom. One of the lawyers, Kristen Waggoner, said, “It is wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will.” She also said that they would be appealing the decision on behalf of their client to the US Supreme Court.

The main photo, of Barronelle Stutzman, is from ChristianToday.com. The other photo and facts for the story are from the SeattlePI.com.

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Cynthia Katsarelis

Imagine if the florist wouldn't provide flowers for a black couple, or an interracial marriage. That is precisely the same thing. Are we going to go back to the bad old days of discrimination against people who are different. I applaud the couple for fighting for what is right - public accommodation for all people.

We are all interdependent. Curt and Robert pay their taxes and the florist can't exist without public resources like roads, police and fire departments, municipal, state, and federal government, etc. We are all part of the human family, our civil laws and taxes are for lifting up the common good, and discrimination is wrong, way wrong.

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Paul Woodrum

In a case like this, who is responsible for turning the other cheek? Stutzman for discrimination or Freed and Ingersoll for asking her to violate her conscience?

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leslie marshall

Christians turn the other cheek, and they don't sue each other. I guess the couple didn't think they had any other way to work out their problem with the florist. I wonder if they have had second thoughts?

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Jeremy Bates

Any florist would sue a customer who fails to pay a large bill, or a landlord who fails to keep the heat and water running.

Lawsuits to achieve civil justice are much better than the alternative.

Besides, we are not Jews living under Roman occupation, and thus caught between two legal systems.

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Jay Croft

Never sue each other? I guess you weren't around when the "breakaway dioceses" started breaking away.

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Gregory Orloff

Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek and not sue each other, but fail to do the first and resort to the second all the time.

I wonder if Barronelle Stutzman has had any second thoughts about not complying with laws governing commerce in public accommodations in her state?

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Jay Croft

I guess that Arlene's Flowers spent much in legal fees, and still they lost. Plus, they lost two good customers.

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