Judge Rules Against Florist for Refusing to Serve Same-Gender Couple

By Sheryl Estrada

Photo by Shutterstock

A Benton County judge ruled Wednesday that a Washington state florist violated anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws in refusing to sell flower arrangements for a same-gender wedding, which she claims she did for religious reasons.

Baronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in eastern Washington, hadservedRobert Ingersoll at least 20 times beforeand was awarethat he was gay, according to court documents.

Yet when Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, requested flower arrangements in March 2013 (Washington state legalized same-gender marriage three months prior), Stutzman declined, saying doing so would have constituted a demonstration of approval for the wedding itself. It was “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said.

Later that year, both state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who claimed she violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, and the couple, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against Stutzman.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom, in a 60-page opinion, said Stutzman’s actions became illegal the day voters passed a referendum legalizing gay marriage.

“For over 135 years, the Supreme Courthas held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote. “The courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”

“You put your home, your family business, and your life savings at risk by daring to defy a government mandate that forces you to promote views you believe are wrong,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kristen Waggoner, who is representing Stutzman, said in a statement.

Ekstrom postponed ruling on fines and any economic damages sought by the couple to a later date.

Stutzman’s attorney saidthat she will be appealing the decision.

This is one of several recent incidents involving the rendering of services to the LGBT community. Oregon state officials announced Feb. 2 that Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws in a similar case. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industriesruled they will have to paya lesbian couple up to $150,000, BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr said. A hearing on March 10 will determine the exact amount.

Conversely, Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies has received a civil-rights complaint about Azucar Bakery after owner Marjorie Silva refused to decorate cakes with anti-gay messages. The customer claims he was discriminated against because of his religious beliefs.

Latest News


Kaiser Permanente Pledges $25,000 To Support Vaccine Access in Native Hawaiian Communities

Originally published at about.kaiserpermanente.org. Kaiser Permanente is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   Kaiser Permanente of Hawaii has announced a $25,000 grant to Kula No Na Po‘e Hawai‘i (KULA), a Native Hawaiian beneficiary serving organization that exists to promote cultural, educational, environmental, and health equity for all. With this…

Kaiser Permanente Awards $115,000 in Grants To Support Essential Health Services for Community Organizations in Hawaii Affected by COVID-19

Originally published at about.kaiserpermanente.org. Kaiser Permanente is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   Kaiser Permanente of Hawaii has awarded grants, totaling $115,000, to support two vital community organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants will bolster the resiliency of Lanakila Pacific and the American Red Cross of Hawaii,…

Boeing Company Expands Sustainability Alliance With Etihad Airways To Drive Innovation in the Aviation Industry

Originally published at boeing.mediaroom.com. Boeing Company ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   On Nov. 15, Boeing and Etihad Airways announced they will expand the companies’ deep collaboration towards environmental goals. Centered on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner fleet, the new memorandum of understanding…

KPMG on Celebrating Its Military Veteran Workforce

Originally published at info.kpmg.us. KPMG ranked No. 16 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   As we commemorate Veterans Day and honor all who served in the United States Armed Forces, we spotlight Air Force veteran Heather Paquette and Marine Corps veteran Joe Bergeron, two KPMG professionals who are members…