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Judge Rules Richland Florist Who Refused Gay Wedding Broke Law

Alliance Defending Freedom
Florist Barronelle Stutzman vowed to appeal a court ruling that forces her Richland shop to serve gay couples.



A judge in Benton County, Washington has ruled that a flower shop in the Tri-Cities broke the law when it refused to serve a gay couple planning a wedding two years ago.

The judge said BarronelleStutzman broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. In 2013, she told Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed she couldn't do the flower arrangements for their wedding because of her religious convictions against same-sex marriage.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined the couple in suing the florist for violating state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. He said the florist's religious beliefs cannot be used to justify treating certain customers differently.

"The bottom line is a business can say, 'No shoes, no shirt, no service.' You're treating everybody the same,” Ferguson said. “But if you provide a certain service — in this case, wedding flowers — you have to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples.”

The case has garnered international attention and groups interested in religious freedom rallied to the defense of Arlene's Flowers and its owner.

Credit ACLU
Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed won a legal victory over Washington state businesses that decline to serve gay couples.

Freed said they're pleased by the decision and they hope other businesses will take notice of their case.

"We felt what we went through was something we wouldn't wish upon others in our community,” he said. “And that's largely why we took the action that we did.”

The judge still has to assess the penalty for the florist. She could face up to a $2,000 fine.

However, lawyers for Stutzman said they will appeal. In a written statement, the defense said it is wrong that the florist could lose her shop and her savings because she operates her business according to her Christian beliefs.

“The government is coming after me and everything I have just because I won’t live my life the way the state says I should,” Stutzman said in the statement. “I just want the freedom to live and work faithfully and according to what God says about marriage without fear of punishment."

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.
Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.