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Washington State Suing Florist Barronelle Stutzman for Denying Gay Couple Wedding Flowers

A gay couple who were going to be married in Washington state in March were denied flowers from a florist who was against gay marriage. Now, the state is suing her.

A lawsuit has been filed by the state attorney general in Benton County Superior Court against the Richland florist, Barronelle Stutzman. She owns Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, and is popular for weddings.

Robert Ingersoll was hoping to get some of her flowers for his wedding, but Stutzman denied him, saying that she could not sell him the flowers due to her "relationship with Jesus Christ."

Her attorney, JD Bristol, said that she is not discriminating against the couple's sexual orientation, but was instead defending her stance on gay marriage.

"This is about gay marriage, it's not about a person being gay," Bristol said. "She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality. It violates her conscience."

But Attorney General Bob Ferguson is arguing that what she did was unlawful.

"Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation," Ferguson said. "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."

They are seeking $2,000 in penalties and permanent injunction requiring Stutzman to obey with state laws.

Ferguson said she discriminated against Ingersoll due to his sexual orientation, violating the state's anti-discrimination laws and its Consumer Protection Act. 

But Bristol is fighting back, saying that Stutzman should stand by her convictions as the state is just trying to make an example of her.

Bristol said, because making floral arrangements is a creative process, she should be able to decide who she wants to sell her art to.

"It takes artistic talent to do that. All artists consider what they do to be an expression. I one hundred percent believe this is a freedom-of-expression and free-exercise-of-religion issue," he said. "What the government is saying here is that you don't have the right to free religious exercise."

Sources: Columbian, Seattle Times


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