US$85,000 raised for Wash­ing­ton florist who re­fused gay cou­ple

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A florist in Wash­ing­ton state fined US$1,000 for re­fus­ing to sell a same-sex cou­ple wed­ding flow­ers and fac­ing a con­sumer-pro­tec­tion law­suit filed by the state has net­ted more than US$85,000 in a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign.

The Seat­tle Times re­ports that nearly half of the money on the go­ page set up in late Fe­bru­ary for Bar­ronelle Stutz­man, 70, came in the last sev­eral days.

Sup­port­ers com­pare Stutz­man’s ben­e­fit page to an In­di­ana pizza shop that raised more than US$800,000 af­ter closing when a co-owner ex­pressed sup­port for the state’s new re­li­gious ob­jec­tions law to pro­tect pri­vate busi­ness own­ers. The co-owner said the shop wouldn’t cater a gay wed­ding.

But In­di­ana leg­is­la­tors, fac­ing mount­ing pres­sure, tweaked the law late last week to ad­dress con­cerns that it would al­low dis­crim­i­na­tion against gays and les­bians.

The Wash­ing­ton state law, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bob Fer­gu­son has said, “clearly pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex cou­ples.”

Stutz­man, owner of Ar­lene’s Flow­ers and Gifts in Rich­land, Wash­ing­ton, was fined US$1,000 in Ben­ton County Su­pe­rior Court in March af­ter re­fus­ing to serve a same-sex cou­ple in 2013. That’s a vi­o­la­tion of that state’s anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion and con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws, the court ruled.

The court’s rul­ing also re­quires Stutz­man’s shop to make avail­able to same-sex cou­ples ev­ery­thing the shop sells to op­po­site-sex cou­ples.

But Stutz­man said same- sex wed­dings go against her South­ern Bap­tist be­liefs. Af­ter she de­clined to agree to no longer dis­crim­i­nate, Fer­gu­son said, his of­fice filed the con­sumer-pro­tec­tion law­suit.

“It’s about free­dom, not money,” Stutz­man wrote Fer­gu­son on Feb. 20, two days af­ter the court rul­ing, in a let­ter ob­tained by the Seat­tle news­pa­per. “I cer­tainly don’t rel­ish the idea of los­ing my busi­ness, my home, and ev­ery­thing else that your law­suit threat­ens to take from my fam­ily, but my free­dom to honor God in do­ing what I do best is more im­por­tant.”

A mes­sage left at Ar­lene’s Flow­ers and Gifts on Sun­day by The As­so­ci­ated Press wasn’t re­turned.

A note on the go­fundme site for Stutz­man said the site was set up by a friend of Stutz­man who works for a legal or­ga­ni­za­tion, and that do­nated money is in­tended for po­ten­tial legal bills. More than 2,000 peo­ple had made dona­tions by Sun­day, the web­site said.

A mes­sage sent Sun­day by the AP through the web­site to a per­son listed as the cam­paign or­ga­nizer didn’t re­ceive a re­sponse by phone or email.

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