Gay cou­ple wins law­suit al­leg­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion by re­li­gious florist

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Lynn Thomp­son

1 SEAT­TLE >> A Rich­land, Wash., florist who re­fused to pro­vide flow­ers to a gay cou­ple for their wed­ding vi­o­lated anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thurs­day. The court ruled unan­i­mously that Bar­ronelle Stutz­man dis­crim­i­nated against long­time cus­tomers Rob Inger­soll and Curt Freed when she re­fused to do the flow­ers for their 2013 wed­ding be­cause of her re­li­gious op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage. In­stead, Stutz­man sug­gested sev­eral other florists in the area who would help them.

Stutz­man and her at­tor­neys said they would ap­peal the de­ci­sion to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also held out hope that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der pro­tect­ing re­li­gious free­dom, which was a cam­paign pledge. Stutz­man called the rul­ing “ter­ri­fy­ing when you think the gov­ern­ment is com­ing in and telling you what to think and what to do.”

In its de­ci­sion, the state’s high­est court re­jected Stutz­man’s claims that since other florists in the area were will­ing to pro­vide flow­ers, no harm re­sulted from her re­fusal.

The court also re­jected Stutz­man’s claims that her flo­ral ar­range­ments were a form of artis­tic ex­pres­sion and so pro­tected by the First Amend­ment. Cit­ing the case of a New Mex­ico pho­tog­ra­pher who sim­i­larly re­fused to take pic­tures at a gay mar­riage, the court said, “while pho­tog­ra­phy may be ex­pres­sive, the op­er­a­tion of a pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness is not.” In De­cem­ber 2012, soon after the state le­gal­ized gay mar­riage, Inger­soll and Freed be­gan plan­ning a large wed­ding. Stutz­man, who had pro­vided flow­ers to the cou­ple nu­mer­ous times over the years, re­fused, cit­ing her Chris­tian faith in say­ing that mar­riage is a sa­cred covenant be­tween a man and a woman.

The cou­ple went ahead with their wed­ding but down­sized it and got flow­ers from an­other florist.

The cou­ple, state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bob Fer­gu­son and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Washington sued Stutz­man un­der the state’s anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion and con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws in what be­came a high-pro­file case that high­lighted the clash be­tween the right to be treated equally un­der the law and the free ex­er­cise of re­li­gion and speech.

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