May 17, 2013 Print

Florist Sues Washington AG Over Religious Freedom Violations

by Bethany Monk

A Washington florist facing a lawsuit for declining to contribute her talents for a same-sex wedding ceremony filed a countersuit against state Attorney General Bob Ferguson Tuesday.

Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland. For years, she has served and employed several people who identify as homosexual. For nine years, she designed floral arrangements for customer Robert Ingersoll, who is openly gay. All was well — until he asked her to create an arrangement for his wedding. 

“Everyone knows that plenty of florists are willing to assist in same-sex ceremonies, so the state has no reason to force Barronelle to violate her deeply held beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions.”

Ingersoll went to Arlene’s Flowers on March 1, where he requested an order of floral arrangements to decorate his upcoming wedding. According to the countersuit, Stutzman did not refuse to sell him flowers; she told him that her religious convictions meant that she would not be able to design and create floral arrangements to decorate a same-sex wedding.

The state Attorney General filed a lawsuit in early April, 2013. Nine days later, American Civil Liberties union of Washington Foundation filed a suit on behalf of Ingersoll. Both parties claimed the florist was guilty of unlawful discrimination.

The state Constitution, however, protects the rights of conscience and religion. Article 1, Section 11 protects “freedom of conscience in all matters or religious sentiment, belief, and worship.” It also guarantees that “no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion.”

The countersuit underscores Stutzman’s right to decide not to use her artistic skill to create arrangements for events that violate her religious beliefs, “particularly when there are many other florists willing, ready, and able to create floral arrangements” for such ceremonies.

“Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs,” Schowengerdt explained. “It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”

Read State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers.

Read Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.

Read the countersuits against the AG.

Read “Commentary: Who’s to Blame for Arlene’s Flowers?”