Washington State Sues Florist for Refusing Gay Couple's Wedding
The Washington State Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against an eastern Washington florist who said her belief in Jesus did not allow her to provide flowers for the wedding of a gay couple, reports the Seattle Times.
According to the Times, attorney general Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court Tuesday against Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., after the florist refused to serve a longtime gay customer, citing her "relationship with Jesus Christ." Just days earlier, the AG's office issued a letter asking Arlene's to comply with state law.
"Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation," Ferguson said in a statement. "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 lawsuit contends that Stutzman violated the state's antidiscrimination laws when the shop owner refused to provide flowers for Robert Ingersoll's wedding to his husband. The state is seeking $2,000 in penalties and a permanent injunction requiring the florist to comply with state law that recognizes marriage equality, reports the Times.
But Stutzman's attorney believes the state is targeting his client for her religious beliefs, since she has gay and lesbian employees and customers, and calls the state's claim that his client is discriminating against customers based on their sexual orientation "nonsense."
"This is about gay marriage, it’s not about a person being gay," defense attorney JD Bristol told the Times. "She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality. It violates her conscience."
Washington voters approved marriage equality in November 2012 by a margin of 52%.