Judge Rules against Washington Florist; State Can Now Target Personal Assets
TUPELO, Miss.—A Washington state judge on Wednesday ruled against florist Barronelle Stutzman for declining to create floral arrangements and decorations for a gay couple’s wedding. The ruling means that the state can now go after not only her business assets but also her personal assets.
In his ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom said Stutzman violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. According to Reuters.com, Stutzman, 70, maintained that her Christian beliefs prevented her from selling flowers from her business, Arlene’s Flowers, for the same-sex wedding “because of (her) relationship with Jesus Christ.”
American Family Association (AFA, www.afa.net) has been closely following the case and others like it. AFA issued an Action Alert to its one million friends and supporters today and is calling on Christians around the country to pray for and support the florist.
“American Family Association is encouraging Christians everywhere to continue to stand for religious freedoms, as they are being attacked every day,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “We pray for Barronelle Stutzman and applaud her courage for defending her faith and her God-given religious freedom, even in the face of persecution. We also pray that justice will be done and that religious liberties will be protected as this case proceeds.”
In 2013, Stutzman was sued by the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the same-sex couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.
In his 60-page opinion, Judge Ekstrom wrote that the First Amendment protects Stutzman’s religious faith but not actions stemming from those beliefs that conflict with state anti-discrimination laws, the Washington Times reported.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Stutzman, and her attorney, Kristen Waggoner, says the ruling forces her client to violate her religious beliefs or lose her business, home and other assets. ADF says it will appeal the ruling.
Waggoner, in an ADF statement, said, “The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage. The two men had no problem getting the flowers they wanted. They received several offers for free flowers, and the marketplace gives them plenty of options. Laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination might sound good, but the government has begun to use these laws to hurt people—to force them to conform and to silence and punish them if they don’t violate their religious beliefs on marriage.”
Judge Ekstrom also stated that Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers “cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly licensed business.” About 3 percent of Arlene’s Flowers’ business involves preparing floral arrangements for weddings.
The Washington Times also reported, “Under the law, both the state and the couple may pursue penalties of up to $2,000 per violation as well as legal fees against Arlene’s Flowers and Ms. Stutzman personally, which may put her out of business and place her home and savings at risk, said her attorneys.”