Washington State Sues Florist Who Refused Gay Couple’s Wedding

Stuzman

You may recall Baronelle Stuzman, the Washington state florist who told a longtime customer that she would not do his wedding because of her relationship with Jesus.

She's now being sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the SeattlePI reports:

Ferguson said he sent a March 28 letter to owner Barronelle Stutzman asking her to reconsider and supply flowers to customer Robert Ingersoll.  Through an attorney, Stutzman declined to change her position.

“As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington,” said Ferguson.  “Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.  If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same sex couples the same product or service.”

The AG's office s asking that a $2,000 fine be imposed for every violation in a complaint filed in Benton County Superior Court.

NOM is already bleating: "Like clockwork, those who disagree with gay marriage are being fined and forced out of the public square — by the state-imposed redefinition of marriage."

Comments

  1. kpo5 says

    “Like clockwork, those who disagree with gay marriage are being fined and forced out of the public square — by the state-imposed redefinition of marriage.”

    NOM logic: If you disagree with the law, you can break it.

  2. Jack M says

    Like clockwork, those who disagree with gay marriage are crying like spoiled little babies when legal recourse is taken to prevent discrimination in America.

  3. Terry says

    And lets not forget that the people of Washington had a vote on this issue so its really the people of Washington who “imposed” marriage equality on the state. BTW this has nothing to do with marriage its being prosecuted under WA state’s consumer protection law, but then again I guess NOM doesn’t pay attention to that kind of detail.

  4. hamish says

    This woman could have come up with 100 reasons for declining to do the flowers – she chose the bigoted reason (real as it was for her). She’s been caught in a trap she set and now she’s the “victim.” Very typical.

  5. Zlick says

    Let all the whingers whinge and all the sheeples bleat. This is what I love about the law. Cry yourself a river, but it won’t float you far enough away from its long arm. I hope the prosecution of this rather stupid bigot (but is there any other kind?) serves as a shining example.

  6. Burt says

    She might want to have a heart-to-heart talk with that other man in her life–Jesus–about her decision. I daresay Jesus would beg to differ with her.

    Good that the consumer protection agency is going after her.

    Too bad the customer didn’t know what she was all about earlier.. he could have gone elsewhere..

  7. Alex Parrish says

    She chose this fight. She is NOT a victim — she is a bigot. I am glad to see this being prosecuted. I think every engaged couple in the state ought to approach her for flowers; let her deny them all and bankrupt her business due to her bigotry.

  8. Steve says

    The judge needs to ask her whether she inquires whether her customers had pre-marital sex, use contraception, had a divorce, had an abortion or whether they plan to serve shrimp cocktails at the wedding.

  9. Randy says

    I’m sure her relationship with Jesus prevents her from doing business with people commit all sorts of sins. If you have premarital sex, sex outside of marriage, eat shellfish at the wedding, then she can’t provide flowers.

    Obviously, if you have ever committed a murder or theft, or have a graven image, or beared false witness, or honor another type of god, she can’t provide flowers.

    In order for this woman to honor her relationship with Jesus, all clients would have to fill out an extensive form listing all their sins. Then she could determine whether they are worthy of her flowers.

    But of course, she doens’t do that. Only the “sin” of homosexuality is bad enough to deny the business. The fact is that she is perfectly okay with all sorts of sinners, just not gays.

    obviously, this woman is a bigot. But she is hiding behind her religion to justify her bigotry. That, to me, is the worst type of bigot.

  10. Caliban says

    If she had refused to serve a Jew or Muslim or someone of another race there would be NO controversy about a lawsuit. Well despite what her know-nothing pastor or her sh*tty old book says, sexuality is as intrinsic as race and FAR more so than religion, which clearly IS a choice! (Otherwise explain “missionaries” and proselytizing.)

    And David Hearne? Please drop dead at your earliest convenience and take your Freedom Of Association bullsh*t with you. That has absolutely NOTHING to do with establishments supplying goods and services to the public!

  11. Francis #1 says

    Ha Ha Bigots! Cases like this though are why there needs to be a federal law on discrimination in the working field. Even in states with discrimination policies, business owners are attempting to ignore the law, blatantly not follow it or evade it. I’m glad to see Washington state stepping in here and sending a clear message the state will not accept discrimination against gay people.

    This woman isn’t a victim. She made her choices and her choices backfired on her.

  12. says

    NOM is trying to pull a fast one, as usual. This case isn’t about marriage at all. It’s about singling out a class of people from a public business because you don’t happen to like them, in clear violation of her state’s non-discrimination laws. A business owner who excluded Christians (or blacks, Jews, women, redheads) would face the same consequences. She wasn’t singled out; the customers she chose to discriminate against were. NOM has it backwards, surprise!

  13. Profe Sancho Panza says

    I don’t know why people cannot grasp (Citizens United and Mitt Romney notwithstanding) that BUSINESSES ARE NOT PEOPLE. Businesses do not have constitutional freedoms of religion, association, etc., because BUSINESSES ARE NOT PEOPLE. A business owner has constitutional freedoms as a citizen, but those freedoms do not extend to the operation of their businesses. IT’S NOT THAT COMPLICATED.

  14. JONES says

    Come on back Jesus.

    Tired of hearing the goodness you stood for abused by this woman and others like her. Those that use your name in an attempt to justify their hatred and bigotry need a smack down from the source so yeah, come on back.

    Just a tiny little favor to ask though Jesus. When you come back this time make sure they see you as the person their actions do harm to. Like homeless gay kids, street beggars, suicidal bullied gay teens.

    Come back as Matthew Sheppard, Jesus.

  15. AG says

    Unsurprisingly, gay fascists in the kommentariat are happy to bend over other people by force (of government). Röhm would have been proud of you guys.

  16. graphicjack says

    I think every queer in the city that wants to get married should go into her shop, ask her to do the flowers for their weddings, have her refuse, then sue her for it… she’d be out of business in no time, which means she’ll have more time for her one-on-one talks to Jebus… win-win for everyone, except maybe Jebus…

  17. GregV says

    I can easily imagine what NOM’s response would be if, hypothetically the bigoted churches it supports and those churches’ members were put onto a widely-circulated master list to whom opposite-minded florists would refuse to sell flowers, restaurant waiters would refuse to serve food, and realtors could keep the bigots out of respectable neighborhoods.
    We all know this has nothing to do with some general notion of wanting businesses to serve only those they choose to serve. NOM wants the people it likes to be catered to everywhere while demanding special exemptions in the law spefically for their own pet prejudices.

  18. Christophe says

    Dear NOM: STFU. We do not need your “permission” to be lawful and respectful, while insisting others do likewise. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, because you preach contempt for law based on discrimination and disrespect.

  19. Rich F. says

    @ David Hearne: This has nothing to do with Freedom of Association. She runs a business of public accommodation, she refused service to member of a protected class under Washington state statute, and she broke the law.

    If she were invited to the wedding, and refused, then that’s within her right under freedom of association. But denial of public accommodation is illegal in this country, and has been since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  20. David Hearne says

    You liberals are all the same. Why can’t you just accept that some people have a right to discriminate against us? My family has the freedom to tell me how much they wish I wasn’t their son and I have the freedom to arm myself with assault rifles in case my family ever gets any ideas about getting rid of me. Again.

  21. Craig says

    Hate to say I’m on the woman’s side. I’m a gay atheist and I don’t think private citizens should be forced by law to do anything that is against their personal values. There are plenty of business out there that deserve our support (there even used to be a stereotype about gay florists). As far as the others, don’t give them the free publicity for “christians” to latch onto. This kind of situation does not make “our” side look good, it makes us look like ambulance chasers.

  22. says

    And now we get the trolls who pretend they are gay and tell us how wrong we all are for believing that people who are issued a license by the state to conduct business are not allow to discriminate against classes of people.

  23. Jim says

    Anti-discrimination laws–federal and state–have been repeatedly affirmed as constitutional by both federal courts and state courts. Government may regulate commerce and public accommodations. Engaging in commerce is NOT a religious rite and nobody gets to cancel government’s constitutional authority to regulate commerce with Bible thumping. Jesus doesn’t trump civil law–not in civil court. This lawsuit is absolutely pointless: the anti-discrimination law will be affirmed and the florist compelled to comply. If futility is the only position anti-gay haters have left, it’s time to give up and move on.

  24. says

    I’m glad discrimination can cost bigots more than just lost customers and revenue. But honestly, I think the time will come pretty soon when word-of-mouth about a business which discriminates against same-sex couples will be adequate impetus to close them down… at least in most blue states.

  25. PAUL B. says

    Now, let’s see…I own a small business in Ca. and have mostly straight clients. If I screen them all and then refuse to do business with most of them because what they do in their bedrooms is distasteful to me…can they “persecute” me in return? Hell yes !! And they should to the full extent of the law…and then maybe a smigen more.

  26. david from Edmonton says

    Sometimes it is necessary in the interest of a cause to take drastic actions, but this is just a little over the top even for me. What is stopping the more radical people from seeking out people to sue. It detracts from the real message, that being our “agenda” is equal treatment, not bullying our detractors. makes us look mean and vindictive.

  27. says

    i’d argue, David from Edmonton, that it makes us look like we have spines and will fight back against being discriminated against.

    Do you know why these sort of things go on for so long? because too many people play dead rather than fight it.

    mean and vindictive? that’s one way of seeing it. another is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore / actually following through with the law”

  28. says

    This is a really important lawsuit. The “victim” isn’t involved, the state is suing the women on their own behalf.

    This lady broke Washington state anti-discrimination laws. The state got fed up waiting for the victim to press charges and decided that allowing her to flout the law sets a bad precedent. WHICH IS AWESOME.

    The argument she is using is creative expression, the state no matter how legal it makes gays, still can’t demand an artists to paint pictures about it, musicians to sing about it etc.

    The clear problem with her defense is that she is a business first and an artist second (if at all). The state can’t force an artists to paint but they can commission art from a art business.

  29. says

    @ David from Edmonton :
    I cannot see that treating all people equally under the law amounts to bullying.

    It constitutes “treating ALL people equally”…..no more, no less.
    How can you possibly distort this to mean that we look mean and vindictive ?

  30. Dearcomrade says

    It would almost be worth driving the 3.5 hours from Portland to Richland just to order some flowers, be turned away and file a complaint with the state.

  31. Craig says

    Sorry, I just have the opinion that when other states are looking at enacting anti-discrimination laws (most states don’t have them), they are going to point to examples like this and say “no thanks” we don’t want our business owners being sued by the state. I just don’t think it helps us advance our cause in the majority of states where it is still legal to discriminate. There are NO federal laws that protect people based on sexual orientation, we have to count on states to enact them (unless Obama grows a pair and issues an executive order like he promised, and hasn’t delivered, with ENDA).

  32. david from Edmonton says

    It just amazes me what hypocrites we are. We are absolutely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with us to the point, and I stand by my assertion that we become mean and vindictive (and n amount of rhetoric will change my mind). It’s not ok to treat us in a noarrow minded way be we can certainly treat others exactly the same. We can bombard her with business she doesn’t want and drive her out of business (and thaty isn’t bullying??) or you can find a place that will serve your needs in an open and accepting way. Play it however you want, I would rather go at this any other way than continuing to make us look like the bad guys vs doing the things proactively to change peoples minds – this just solidifies the conservative’s negative views of us. Feel free to hate on my point (which is kind of facist) of view but I am wellcome to express it in a democratic environment. I have my perspective and I will kepp it regardless. Thanks for your comments though I appreciate the diversity of the conversations.

  33. GregV says

    “…I don’t think private citizens should be forced by law to do anything that is against their personal values.”

    @Craig: Embracing the notion that no one should have to observe any law he doesn’t agree with is anarchy, which has never worked anywhere.

    If an employer believed women are inferior, he could ignore minimum wage and workplace safety laws for his female employees.
    If someone heard voices in her head telling her to kill her children, then she’d be welcome to do so.
    If someone didn’t believe in taxes, he’d be immune from paying them.
    There would be no point in police or courts or any laws at all if “the law doesn’t agree with my own values” were a get-out-of-jail-free card.
    Is that really the society you want?

  34. JONES says

    @david

    Where do you take a stand?

    Some here may seem vindictive but perhaps they’ve been victimized their entire lives by people like this florist. Maybe you haven’t experienced that kind of bigotry in your life or perhaps you have a gentler soul and would rather just walk away. I’m that way most of the time myself.
    But
    There has to be a time when someone challenges you that you take a stand. In this case it’s over flowers. Think of the flowers as symbolic of something else. What if they were a job, or a place to live, or school for your children? A seat on a bus? A lunch counter?

    There always comes a time when the downtrodden have to take a stand.

  35. says

    david, it’s not intolerant to not tolerate intolerance. she’s free to not like gays. she’s not free to discriminate. this is about the law. this is not hypocrisy.

    and driving her out of business is not bullying. it’s justice. sorry you don’t understand that.

  36. GregV says

    “It just amazes me what hypocrites we are. We are absolutely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with us…”

    @David From Edmonton: That point would make sense if it were directed at someone who were commenting that “we” should be served everywhere but that same person ran a business denying service to people THEY don’t like.
    It is not hypocritical to suggest that EVERYONE should be allowed to access businesses that serve the public.
    It is only hypocritical to suggest thet “our side” should be served everywhere but “the other side” should not, and that is what NOM seems to wants.

    Think back to the Woolworth lunch counters that refused seevice to blacks. Yes, it would have been hypocritical if s black restaurant-owner refused to serve ehite people but wanted fiscrimination agsinst himself (only) to end. It was NOT hypocritical for people to assert that all of the public should be served.

  37. says

    How is it hypocritical, David? She singled out loyal customers for ugly and illegal treatment and created her current predicament all by herself. If I were a business owner in WA I would fully expect to have to serve all of my customers whether I approved of their values or not. It’s not like there’s a special exemption in the law for gay business owners who might not want to serve anti-gay customers. So why should there be an exemption for her, simply because she has religious beliefs? Sorry, but one’s personal religious beliefs have no place in the running of a public business.

    @Craig: as a private citizen she would have the right to avoid a business whose values went against her own, but as a public business owner she has no such right in WA. And, it’s not “our side” acting here, it’s the WA AG, who is sending the message to all business owners that discrimination is against the moral and legal values of the state. Of course NOM and their ilk will claim it is related to marriage equality and to anti-religious bigotry, but states shouldn’t be expected to toss non-discrimination laws out the window to appease the NOM propaganda machine.

  38. david from Edmonton says

    Sometimes a well organized boycott of like minded souls does more good and makes a point. Has this behaviour changed Chick-fil-a. It just served to drive the opposition to support htier cause even more so. Perhaps I see it a bit different as a Canadian. We tend not to be solitiginous about these things and for the most part have a reasonably tolerant society (with a few rare indcidents). We are not perfect here but there is a better way to go about it and it’s my right, even as a gay man, to see better solutions that don’t make me feel diminished or subservient. And I would say the issue of discrimination of Blacks is entirely different, most of us can go anywhere without being so blatantly identified, so in my mind it is not the same. I get that it is time to stand up for rights denied us, but it happened here with a great deal less animosity and hateful rhetoric from either side and society disn’t crumble and there were no rits in the streets and ther were no lawsuits. I still find it amazing that we are so close geographically and so different ideolgically. Good luck on your journey, mine isn’t so rocky and I am appreciative and happy I am Canadian (even if we tend to be the butt of jokes).

  39. Zlick says

    Some days I just fall in love all over again with Little Kiwi.

    Craig, anti-discrimination laws are federal as well as state, so’s there’s nowhere to go for your hypothetical state that wants to join the 20th century well into the 21st finally put into place its own non-discrimination statutes. Sheesh.

    Also on my sheesh list – this is not a private lawsuit by the victim of the florist’s discrimination. It’s a state action by the attorney general alleging violation of state law. Have the decency to grok the difference if you’re going to bother commenting on this story.

  40. Zlick says

    So david from Edmonton, this CANNOT be mean and vindictive because it’s not being pursued by the people who were denied service. It might be selective prosecution, but it’s absolutely beyond our ability, as masters of the Homosexual Agenda, to control which crimes the attorney general decides to take on. So whether it makes us “look bad” or not, we of the Gay Collective are not involved in this decision.

  41. says

    you don’t see it different as a Canadian, David from Edmonton. I’m a Canadian. You see it different as an ALBERTAN – aka, our most backwards province. I get it, you grew up in Ralph Klein Land and are afraid of ruffling feathers. This Canadian from Toronto sees it differently, sugarpie.

    and just because “some of us” can “pass for white” doesn’t mean that life isn’t markedly different, and intolerant, for those of us who can’t, or won’t.

    this is not comparable to Chick-Fil-A – Chick-Fil-A were donating to anti-gay hategroups, not refusing to serve gays.

    please for the love of God stay on topic or recede into the evening.

  42. says

    david, would you feel the same if this had been a florist refusing to give flowers to Jews? Blacks?

    how a bout a dry-cleaner that refused to press a suit that was going to be worn at a bar mitzvah?

    is it just gay things that make you nervous, or does all social injustice make you want to run away?

  43. JONES says

    @Kiwi
    Bit harsh on David. He’s not an enemy and has wished you well. Do him the same.

    @David
    Thanks for the conversation and support.
    Canada has almost always done better than the US on social issues.

  44. Bryan says

    These are fascinating examples of a much larger issue. Certain individuals are arguing that they have a right to discriminate against members of a minority because of their religious beliefs, and should be exempt from secular anti-discrimination laws essentially “because there is no higher law than God’s law.”

    The real debate here is about what place religious law has in a nation whose precepts forbid the establishment of a state religion. There are plenty of precedents, many of which ironically involve America’s other sexual minority: Mormons.

    The LDS once supported polygamy, a clear violation of US law. The Mormon church hypocritically caved to the US state. It’ll be interesting to see if people like Ms. Stuzman are willing to be penalized for acting on their beliefs, or if, as the LDS did, they’ll experience some expedient “revelation.” If they stick to their principles, it’ll be even more interesting to see if state and federal authorities are willing to prosecute them.

  45. says

    @David, still not sure where you see hatefulness on our side? The guys who were discriminated against in this case had been loyal, friendly customers of this woman for years–i.e., they had given her a lot of money. It’s only when their gayness become too obvious to her (their marriage) that suddenly she wanted no part of their business. How is singling them out for their sexual orientation different than singling someone out for their race? Both are and should be equally illegal. The guys expressed no hatred towards her, even after they were mistreated in this way, and the AG of WA is hardly doing this out of hate.

    As a part-time Canadian (proudly so) I see the AG’s evenhanded solution to this–warning businesses that discrimation is not tolerated–as quite in line with the Canadian approach to dealing with such issues. The unfortunately American aspect to this is a public business owner expecting to get a special pass no other business owner gets because her bigotry is religion-based.

  46. says

    @Aki: Not an apt comparison. She wasn’t asked to create a floral arrangement (i.e. a particular product) that spells out “I hate old, white Christians.” It would be reasonable for a business owner to object to making such a product, just as a baker would be able to refuse to make a child’s birthday cake frosted with razor blades just cause that’s what Aunt Mary requested.

    This woman was asked to provide flowers for a wedding of loyal customers, which as a public flower business she is legally obligated to do. The comparison would be if a gay baker refused to bake a cake, any cake, for her retirement (or going-out-of-business) party because he knew she was an anti-gay Christian. And in that case, it would be his obligation to provide that service, preferably with a fake smile.

    Get it?

  47. GregV says

    @Ernie: I strongly agree with your entire comment, except this part:
    The comparison would be if a gay baker refused to bake a cake, any cake, for her retirement (or going-out-of-business) party because he knew she was an anti-gay Christian.”

    The gay couple doesn’t seem to have done anything to be antagonistic toward her, so the qualifier “anti-gay” doesn’t make a true parallel.
    It would be more like if the gay baker refused her retirement cake just because she’s white or because she’s Christian (I use the term loosely here, as Jesus never said anything against gay couples, and he had no trouble associating with people whose sexualities (the eunuchs) and sexual decisions (prostitutes, etc.) were not like His own, and whether they could be considered sinners” didn’t change that).

  48. Bill says

    Her “relationship with Jesus” apparently includes not taking him seriously: “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” In this case, “Caesar” (i.e., the government) is not amused. Guess she doesn’t know what is in the Bible, but thumps it anyway. It’s always funny to see overly devout Christians doing that.

  49. millerbeach says

    Why do these ugly people continue to besmirch the good name of Jesus Christ? He would be ill if He found out people were HATING in His name! Jesus is about love! That’s all…no judgement, as Jesus loves ALL of God’s children. Not just the straight ones, not just the white ones, but ALL of God’s children, gay or straight, black, white, yellow, brown, and every color in between. This lady, like so many misinformed Christians, seems to think it is o.k. to hate in the name of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Too bad they will discover the error of their ways when it is far too late…as their souls roast for an eternity in the fires of Hell. They disobeyed God’s law, by usurping His ultimate authority, when they pass judgement on others. God is quite clear about this, it continues to amaze me these alleged “Christians” still think it’s just fine to keep on hating. It is, at least, here on earth….but as a Christian, we are living here for our reward of eternal life with Christ. If we cannot behave like Him on this planet, we will never know Him after our physical death. So many misguided souls are being led to a very bad place. Wake up, GOTP hypocrites, before it is too late! Save yourselves from yourselves!

  50. DC Arnold says

    Here how this will ultimately play out:
    a. Spike in sales from the support of like minded Christians.
    b. Straight but not Narrow friends of gays will make sure her shop is off the list for events.
    c. Sales will plummet by mid summer and shop will close by fall.

  51. Bill Michael says

    None of this would happen here in Kentucky because of the recent passage of HB-279 which gives churches and religious organizations the specific right to opt out of anything that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Under the new Kentucky law, the state MUST PROVE that they have a compelling interest to force religious groups to obey state law.

  52. says

    Point taken, GregV.

    And, yes, Aki, if Maggie showed up at a gay baker’s shop, she must be welcomed, like any other customer.

    A baker could reasonably argue against making a cake that went against his values (if, for instance, Maggie wanted a cake shaped like her nude body–perish the thought) but only if he refused to make nude cakes for all customers. You can’t select out customers you don’t like for “special” treatment.

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