Wednesday, January 14, 2015

UPDATE: Judge Rules Against Florist Who Refused Service To Gay Couple

I’ve written about Barronelle Stutzman and her Richland Washington flower shop, Arlene’s Flowers, several times, the first time almost two years ago, so let’s replay the back-story first:

Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed live in Washington, and, having been together for a while, and since Washington made all of its citizens equal, they decided to get married in September 2013.

And, since during their nearly decade-long relationship they ordered special occasion flowers — birthdays, anniversaries, condolences and such — from Arlene's Flowers, they decided to use the same florist for their wedding flowers, But Arlene’s owner, and that would be Barronelle Stutzman, turned them down because, as she says:
"Rob came into the store and was talking about getting married. I told him because of my relationship with Jesus Christ that I couldn't do his wedding."
Robert Ingersoll talked with Stutzman a bit, respectfully, but he felt hurt by the rejection:
"It really hurt because it was somebody I knew. We laid awake all night Saturday. It was eating at our souls. There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work."
Ingersoll wrote a Facebook post about their disappointment in Stutzman and Arlene's Flowers, and suddenly the story was everywhere, with people leaving comments, both positive and critical of the florist who won't do same-sex weddings.

Many pointed out that Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers for the Ingersoll-Freed wedding just might be against Washington law because, while state law exempts religious organizations from having to perform same-sex weddings, it doesn't allow the same exemptions for businesses.

All of which lead to a lawsuit when Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit today against Arlene's Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, for refusing provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

The lawsuit alleges that when Stutzman refused to provide goods or services on the basis of sexual orientation in a place of public accommodation, she was violating the state's anti-discrimination law and was, therefore, also violating laws designed to protect consumers. Since Stutzman operates a business that sells floral arrangements for opposite-sex weddings, Ferguson says she must provide that same service to same-sex couples.

This all went back and forth about The Gays and the baby Jeebus and flowers and cakes and weddings and religion and public businesses, and it is still going on because last week Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom decided that the state of Washington has the authority to bring a consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to do a floral arrangement for The Gays; he also ruled that Stutzman can be held personally liable for violating the Consumer Protection Act.

The judge still has two more motions to rule on in the lawsuit, including whether the facts case show the florist violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

Stutzman’s lawyers are saying she declined not because of the couple’s sexual orientation, but because of her religious views on marriage.

But it was her views on marriage of a gay couple, a couple with a different sexual orientation than, allegedly, her own, so that argument is kind of ridiculous; if she didn’t provide flowers because of her views on marriage wouldn’t that mean she wouldn’t provide flowers for straight couples, too?

Look, it boils down to this: the state attorney general is asking for a permanent injunction requiring Stutzman and her shop to comply with the consumer protection law. Simple. You sell flowers, sell flowers, and keep the Baby Jeebus out of it.

I mean, does she check the religious status of all her customers? Does she find out what all the arrangements are for before she makes them? She doesn’t think The Gays should be married because, in her tiny head the Baby Jeebus told her so, but she can’t let the Baby Jeebus tell her how to run her business.

This would have all been a non-story had she just made the flowers. Now it’ll drag on and on … and she’ll still lose.
Back Story from ISBL:
Barronelle Stutzman, of Arlene's Flowers, and The Baby Jeebus, Don't Sell Flowers For Same-Sex Weddings
Barronelle Stutzman Gets Busted!


the dogs' mother said...

The big issue here, at ground zero, is, and will be at trial (March now), will she be liable for all of her assets, not just the ones involving the store and the state. This is in a companion suit brought by the aggrieved parties. You can see the headlines (not in our paper but conservative religious ones online) 'Grandmother to be left destitute!!'

Kind of interesting being a local story and all. I want Anderson Cooper to show up and media trucks all over the county courthouse plaza.
I expect I would be tossed as a juror.

Bob Slatten said...

"I expect I would be tossed as a juror"

Thanks for my morning spit-take!

anne marie in philly said...

first, WTH kind of a name is "barronelle"?

second, it was OK with jeebus when she took teh gays money since they were "single". say marriage, and the whole game rules change? WTeverlovinF?

pay the piper, baby, cause you AIN'T gonna win a case of pure discrimination. close up shop if you don't wanna play by the state's rules.


Gene Perry said...

SO, hold on a sec ... if these guys hav (as they said) "since during their nearly ... ordered special occasion flowers — birthdays, anniversaries, condolences and such — from Arlene's Flowers, they decided to use the same florist for their wedding" ... so, they ordered flowers for each other's birthdays and Arlene is OK with that? They ordered (I'll assume) Valentine's Day flowers for each other & Arlene's OK with that? But ... OH JESUS ... they want to order WEDDING FLOWERS and that sends Arlene's knickers into a twist.

Sue the old goat ... take EVERYTHING she's got!