Florist Counter-Sues Washington, Arguing She Has a Right to Discriminate

The case of a florist telling her longtime gay customer that she couldn't do the flowers for his wedding to another man has become a lightning rod.

BY Lucas Grindley

May 17 2013 3:01 PM ET

Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers

A florist who told her longtime gay customer that she couldn't provide flowers for his wedding is counter-suing the state of Washington — which says her decision was illegal discrimination.

The Associated Press reports that Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers argues it's not her who is in the wrong, and it's actually the state that is violating her right to religious freedom.

Stutzman told the customer that her "relationship with Jesus Christ" prevented her from selling flowers for his wedding. Although marriage equality is newly legal in Washington, Stutzman is being sued by the state's attorney general because her actions may have violated the state's consumer anti-discrimination law.

Her case has become a cause célèbre for opponents of marriage equality, who have long claimed a right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Republicans in the Washington Senate have introduced a bill that would make it legal for business owners to discriminate against LGBT patrons.

The florist's lawyers reiterated that idea when talking about the lawsuit with the Seattle P-I:

“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions.  Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs,” said Dale Schowengerdt, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Stutzman.

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