Attorney General sues Arlene's Flowers for discrimination

Tri-City HeraldApril 9, 2013 

The Washington Attorney General’s Office is suing the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland for refusing to provide wedding flowers for a same-sex marriage.

State justice officials filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the business and owner Barronelle Stutzman in Benton County Superior Court on Tuesday. They are asking the court to force Stutzman to comply with anti-discrimination laws and pay $2,000 for each violation.

“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,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a release.

Stutzman was not immediately available for comment Tuesday. The attorney general’s release said her lawyers have indicated she will challenge any state action to enforce the law.

Stutzman refused to provide service to Robert Ingersoll, a customer of nine years, in early March when he came into to order flowers for his wedding with his partner, Curt Freed. She told Ingersoll she couldn’t provide the flowers because of her religious beliefs.

The incident led Ingersoll and Freed to write Facebook posts about it, and that got the attention of the attorney general’s office, as sexual discrimination falls under the state’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws.

Stutzman has said she isn’t against gays but that she shouldn’t be judged for her belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Her refusal to serve Ingersoll resulted in one of her employees leaving out of a sense of moral and ethical obligation and some negative feedback from others in the community. However, she’s also had support from people who are glad she’s standing up for her beliefs, Stutzman has said.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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