Local lawmakers take action in Arlene's Flowers case

By The Tri-City HeraldApril 25, 2013 

State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, and other Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday in response to legal action taken against a Richland florist by a gay couple.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers after she refused to sell flowers for Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed's wedding because they are gay. The couple filed a lawsuit of its own last week with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming the florist violated state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The bill introduced Thursday would amend the state's non-discrimination law to not burden "the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual's or entity owner's sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience."

The bill is designed to promote tolerance of different religious beliefs by updating the state's anti-discrimination and human rights laws, Brown said in a news release.

Though the legislative session ends in the next few days, Brown said the bill will remain valid for two years if it isn't passed, allowing it to be taken up in a special session or in the 2014 legislative session.

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