Meet Barronelle Stutzman, grandmother, florist, menace to Progress.
A Washington state florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a gay wedding “because of [her] relationship with Jesus” violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, a judge ruled Wednesday.
“Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom said in his 60-page opinion. “In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the courts have confirmed the power of the legislative branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”
The couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, asked Barronelle Stutzman to provide flowers for their wedding in March 2013, three months after Washington state legalized same-sex marriage. According to court documents, Stutzman had served Ingersoll at least 20 times before and was aware that he was gay. But her shop, Arlene’s Flowers, could not provide the flower arrangements for his wedding because doing so would have constituted a demonstration of approval for the wedding itself, she said.
“I just put my hands on his and told him because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I couldn’t do that, couldn’t do his wedding,” Stutzman said in a deposition.
The sympathies of Washington State in this case have been clear from the beginning. In an unprecedented move, Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson filed suit against Stutzman after merely hearing about her refusal through social media — not, as is typical, because of any complaint filed with his office. As is increasingly the case, the state was perfectly happy to embrace the role of activist.
Also of note, Ingersoll and Freed — despite a long and satisfactory relationship with Arlene’s Flowers and Stutzman — sued Stutzman in her personal, as well as professional capacity, so the damages and attorneys’ fees that she is required to pay to the couple and the state may be taken from her personal finances.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Stutzman, produced the following video to explain her case:
Barronelle Stutzman’s is only one of a number of lawsuits brought by same-sex couples, civil rights organizations, and government entities against religious business owners who, citing their beliefs, have refused to serve same-sex couples. With the Supreme Court readying to expand same-sex marriage rights this summer, expect many more such cases to come.