Judge To Hear Arguments Against Florist Who Declined Service To Gay Couple
A closely-watched court case dealing with whether religious business-owners must provide services to gay couples is headed to oral arguments Friday in Kennewick, Washington.
Barronelle Stutzman said she was following her religious convictions in 2013 when she declined to do the flower arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding.
The state of Washington said she was violating state consumer protection laws.
The two sides will have a chance to lay out their arguments before a superior court judge in Benton County.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said state attorneys will show it’s a clear case of discrimination.
“When it comes to running a business you cannot discriminate against someone based on their religion, based on their race, based on their age, or in this case, based on their sexual orientation,” Ferguson said. “And unfortunately, that’s what she did here.”
Stutzman’s attorneys said by bringing the case the state is trying to force her to use her creative skills to advance a message she doesn’t believe in.
The state’s suit against Stutzman will be heard alongside a second lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of the couple she declined service.
Stutzman could have to pay a $2,000 fine and attorneys fees if the state wins.
There is no deadline for Judge Alex Ekstrom to make his ruling on the case. Ekstrom could also opt to send the case to trial.
Ferguson said he expects the case to ultimately be decided at the state Supreme Court.
The Arlene’s Flowers case has become a rallying point for people on the religious right. The conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington is asking people to rally in support of Stutzman outside the courthouse in Kennewick.