A florist in Washington who refused to decorate a gay wedding lost in the state Superior Court but will appeal the decision in a refusal to betray her faith.
Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, was found to have broken anti-discrimination laws by a Washington state judge when she refused to serve a gay couple. Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom considered the florist’s case briefly before determining that not providing flowers for the wedding of a gay couple based solely upon their sexual orientation fell under anti-discrimination laws. Although religious beliefs and speech related to it are protected under the First Amendment, acting on your religious beliefs are not afforded the same protections when they are used to the detriment of others.
A Happy Occasion
One of the individuals at the heart of the case was Robert Ingersoll. He said that he had been going to Arlene’s Flowers for years and had been served directly by Mrs. Stutzman in the past. Moreover, he explained that she was aware that he was gay and that the flowers were for his partner. However, when Washington legalized same-sex marriage, he ran into trouble at the shop. Having recently decided to marry his partner, he wanted the shop to do the floral arrangements for his wedding.
Yet, when he approached Stutzman, she said that she would not be able to accommodate his request because it conflicted directly with her beliefs as a Southern Baptist. This caused the couple to sue the florist, which landed the case in the Superior Court.
The Defense For the Florist
While many people were confident that the case met the criteria of discrimination, Stutzman found that her beliefs had attracted individuals willing to defend her. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal entity that is against same sex couples and a slew of other lifestyles, took up the case. Their argument was predicated on the idea that discrimination in public is not superseded by an individual’s religious beliefs as long as the individuals looking for service have entered the establishment as a matter of choice. Essentially, they argued that as long as Ingersoll and his fiancé could find another florist, the idea of discrimination was meaningless.
However, the Superior Court did not feel the same way about the case, and ruled against the florist, confirming that she had broken the law while refusing to offer services. The Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson explained the ruling, saying “The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples.”
The Next Steps
Stutzman and her lawyers have decided to appeal the decision and will continue to fight their legal battle in the court of law. The Attorney General offered her deals to end the struggles, so long as she promised not to discriminate based on sexual orientation in the future, but she declined. For the florist, the issue is not about money. She likened the deal to the one offered to Judas to give up Jesus, and she would not betray her faith.