Worker quits Arlene's Flowers in Richland

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 7, 2013 

Arlene's Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman considered it a matter of conscience to refuse to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Now one of her employees considered it a matter of conscience to refuse to continue working for her.

Eryn Hugo, who had worked for the Richland flower shop for about a year and a half, told the Herald she resigned on Tuesday, saying she considered it her moral and ethical obligation to leave her employment.

"I couldn't even give two weeks," Hugo said. "I've never walked out on a job before."

Hugo said she made the decision after "a lot of soul searching" after a workplace meeting Stutzman called on Monday to discuss with employees what happened when Rob Ingersoll of Kennewick came in to order flowers for his wedding to his longtime male partner.

Stutzman told Ingersoll on Friday that she couldn't provide his flowers because of her religious beliefs, which include that marriage is limited to a man and a woman.

Ingersoll left feeling hurt -- he'd been a customer of Stutzman's for nine years -- and after a sleepless night thinking about what had happened, ended up posting about his disappointment on Facebook. After that, hundreds of comments were left on Arlene's Flowers Facebook page both criticizing and supporting the florist.

By Thursday, the story had hit national websites, including Huffington Post, examiner. com and The Advocate, and bestselling author Anne Rice was commenting about it on her Facebook page.

Stutzman said she's had emails from as far as Sweden, along with more Facebook comments.

"It's been good and bad," Stutzman said. "We have had awesome people who have come in and supported us and bought flowers and thanked us for standing up for our convictions. ... We have had some very hateful comments and very hateful phone calls. We thank them for their opinion. That's about all we can do."

But for Hugo, what she could do when she felt the tug of her own convictions was leave.

"Some things are more important than money, and I felt making a stand by quitting -- just not doing something completely against my beliefs -- was very important to me," she said.

Hugo said Stutzman allowed her employees to speak their minds during Monday's meeting.

"Some employees agreed with her. Some didn't. Everybody had their two cents to put in," Hugo said.

Stutzman said she understood why Hugo quit and that she'll be missed in the store.

"Eryn's a really nice gal," she said.

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