Attorneys file new motions in Arlene's Flowers case

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldOctober 28, 2013 

Attorneys for a Richland flower shop owner have asked a Benton County Superior Court judge to toss out the state attorney general's lawsuit against her and her business.

The attorneys, in a motion filed Friday, argue that the lawsuit brought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and standing and for failing to try to resolve it through the Washington Human Rights Commission.

The attorney general's office had no comment Monday on the motion.

A hearing is planned next month.

Ferguson's office sued Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene's Flowers earlier this year after she refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her religious views.

The gay couple also filed a separate lawsuit.

The motion says the state lawsuit is "based on an unprecedented interpretation" of the state's anti-discrimination law and Consumer Protection Act and goes against "more than 30 years of prior agency practice by successive Attorneys General."

It says the state "has undeniably failed to pursue any of the broad range of remedies available through the (state Human Rights Commission's) administrative process. That conciliatory process is clearly the Legislature's preferred vehicle for the resolution of the state's claims in this case."

In a statement, Dale Schowengerdt, one of Stutzman's attorneys, said, "The attorney general has acted inappropriately by trying to intimidate Barronelle through his lawsuit rather than leaving the process where the law says such matters need to take place."

Stutzman's attorneys also filed a separate motion asking that the claims against her in her personal capacity in the state case and the one brought by the couple be dismissed.

Stutzman has countersued the state. That action has been moved to federal court.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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