(By Joe Carter, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission). The Washington State Supreme Court ruled against a Christian florist who refused to serve a same-sex wedding because of “her relationship with Jesus Christ.” In their unanimous decision the state court claims that, “discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The ruling is the latest legal setback for Barronelle Stutzman, the 72-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts. Last year Washington State’s sued Stutzman because she refused to sell flowers to a long time customer when the arrangements were to be used for a same-sex marriage ceremony.
Although Stutzman, an active member of a Southern Baptist church, did not have any qualms about serving homosexual customers, she “didn’t want to be involved in a same-sex marriage.” Stutzman had served her friend and customer Rob Ingersoll for nearly a decade, designing custom arrangements for Valentine’s Day and other holidays. But when Ingersoll asked Stutzman to arrange flowers for their wedding, she told him that while she valued him as a friend, her faith would not allow it.
Last year a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that the law trumped her rights of conscience. “Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” said Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom in his 60-page opinion.
At the time, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he would accept $2,000 in penalties, $1 in fees and costs, plus an agreement not to discriminate in the future and to end further litigation. But Stutzman rejected the proposed settlement, and in a letter to the Washington state attorney general, said:
Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.
I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process.
The attorney general continued to go after Stutzman, even though the refusal could cause her to lose her shop.