A lawyer for Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman compared her to famous artist Jackson Pollock in front of the Washington State Supreme Court in Bellevue on Nov. 15. The 70-year-old Stutzman is fighting against making a floral arrangements for a same-sex couple (video below).
"A Christian floral designer shouldn’t be forced to create custom floral designs for a wedding that’s not between a man and a woman," Kristen K. Waggoner of the Christian-based Alliance Defending Freedom told the court, according to the Tri-City Herald.
Waggoner argued that Stutzman would have sold the gay couple prearranged flowers, but the act of arranging flowers is an artistic expression that should be protected under the First Amendment.
Justice Charles Wiggins asked Waggoner what message Stutzman was creating by arranging flowers.
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"The message that’s being expressed is tailored to the couple," Waggoner stated. "It’s unique to that couple, the themes that they have for their wedding, as well as components of their relationship … I think the important point that your honor mentioned is there doesn’t need to be a particularized message to be considered protected under the First Amendment."
Waggoner then compared Stutzman to Pollock, whose work, Waggoner said, is overpriced and may not mean anything to some, but "is still protected because it’s visual art and it’s artistic expression."
Pollock, who died in 1956, has been an acclaimed artist for decades. His work has hung in famous galleries around the world.
Christie's Auction House tweeted in 2013: "Jackson Pollock's Number 19, 1948 realized $58,363,750, a #worldauctionrecord for the artist."
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Stutzman was fined $1000 in 2015 by the Benton County Superior Court for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law and the Consumer Protection Act when she refused service to Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed in 2013.
Stutzman has maintained that making a floral arrangement for the same-sex wedding would violate her Christian beliefs.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued in court:
There is a difference, your honors, in a freedom to believe and a freedom to act. Ms. Stutzman, per her religious expression, is free to believe what she wishes. But when she engages in public accommodations, and avails herself of the protections and the benefits that come with being a business, there are of course responsibilities that [come] from that.
The case was heard inside an auditorium at Bellevue College. Stutzman's supporters were allowed to hold white paper flowers in support of her.
Stutzman later addressed a crowd outside the auditorium, according to The Christian Post:
The government is telling me there is one choice, I either give up my faith and my freedom or I lose everything I own. Rob has the freedom to act on his beliefs. That's all that I am asking is the same freedom. Our Constitution protects that freedom but it just isn't about my freedom, it is about all of our freedoms.
When the government can come in and tell you what to do, what to create, what to think, what to believe, then we do not live in a free America. Protecting our beliefs isn't a negative thing like some people say it is. It's good things like justice, reason, fairness and respect. However this court rules, it doesn't effect my faith and will not affect my love for all.
The crowd shouted, "Baronelle!" as a reporter tried to interview Waggoner who appeared with Stutzman.