The Washington state-based florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding is now facing a lawsuit from the state attorney general.
The Seattle Times reports that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, had been asked by Attorney General Bob Ferguson to reconsider her decision and comply with the state's anti-discrimination laws before the lawsuit was filed.
"As attorney general, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington," Ferguson is quoted by KIRO News as saying. "Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. 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."
The Attorney General's Office is reportedly seeking a permanent injunction that would require Stutzman's business to comply with the state's consumer protection laws, as well as $2,000 in fines for every violation of the law.
As the Times points out, however, Stutzman's attorney JD Bristol has argued claims that his client is anti-gay are "nonsense," noting, "This is about gay marriage, it’s not about a person being gay. She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality."
In March, the Tri-City Herald reported that Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed had sought out Stutzman's arrangements for their forthcoming September wedding. The loyal Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts customers were shocked when Stutzman turned them down.
“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’" Stutzman told KEPR. This is the only wedding Stutzman has turned down in 37 years.
As the Herald reports, Ingersoll said Stutzman's reaction "really hurt," noting, "There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work."
The case mirrors that of an Oregon-based lesbian couple, who were turned away from a local bakery when they sought a wedding cake.
"I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God," Aaron Klein, who owns Sweet Cakes Bakery with his wife Melissa, is quoted as saying. Specifying that he does not consider himself to be anti-gay -- "I'll sell [gay people] stuff...I'll talk to them, it's fine" -- Klein also noted, "I'd rather have my kids see their dad stand up for what he believes in than to see him bow down because one person complained."
Similarly, in November 2011, a lesbian couple was denied a wedding cake by the Christian owner of an Iowa-based bakery. "I didn't do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle," Victoria Childress, who runs her bakery from home, told KCCI-TV at the time. "It is my right, and it's not to discriminate against them. It's not so much to do with them, it's to do with me and my walk with God and what I will answer [to] Him for."