Discrimination | Gay Marriage | News | Washington

Washington State Sues Florist Who Refused Gay Couple's Wedding


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."

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  1. 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.

    Posted by: Craig | Apr 10, 2013 2:38:30 PM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: PDX Guy | Apr 10, 2013 2:47:08 PM

  3. Isn't there room for a medium, Craig? Like, they get to take their business elsewhere and she gets in trouble for, you know, breaking the law?

    Posted by: Tyler | Apr 10, 2013 2:50:45 PM

  4. 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.

    Posted by: Jim | Apr 10, 2013 2:59:22 PM

  5. 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.

    Posted by: sparks | Apr 10, 2013 3:23:35 PM

  6. 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.

    Posted by: PAUL B. | Apr 10, 2013 3:30:19 PM

  7. 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.

    Posted by: david from Edmonton | Apr 10, 2013 3:48:05 PM

  8. 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"

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Apr 10, 2013 4:00:06 PM

  9. 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.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Apr 10, 2013 4:09:06 PM

  10. @ 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 ?

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Apr 10, 2013 4:09:53 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: Dearcomrade | Apr 10, 2013 4:10:13 PM

  12. 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).

    Posted by: Craig | Apr 10, 2013 4:34:10 PM

  13. 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.

    Posted by: david from Edmonton | Apr 10, 2013 4:42:32 PM

  14. "...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?

    Posted by: GregV | Apr 10, 2013 4:51:43 PM

  15. Frankly I am stunned this hasn't happened in Spokane....yet.

    Posted by: Tom | Apr 10, 2013 4:57:32 PM

  16. @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.
    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.

    Posted by: JONES | Apr 10, 2013 5:02:42 PM

  17. 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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Apr 10, 2013 5:04:41 PM

  18. "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.

    Posted by: GregV | Apr 10, 2013 5:04:54 PM

  19. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Apr 10, 2013 5:07:28 PM

  20. anyone who doesn't understand that refusing to tolerate intolerance is not the same as being "intolerant" lacks the ability to be intellectually discerning.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Apr 10, 2013 5:16:12 PM

  21. 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).

    Posted by: david from Edmonton | Apr 10, 2013 5:31:12 PM

  22. 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.

    Posted by: Zlick | Apr 10, 2013 5:34:00 PM

  23. 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.

    Posted by: Zlick | Apr 10, 2013 5:36:27 PM

  24. 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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Apr 10, 2013 5:39:32 PM

  25. 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?

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Apr 10, 2013 5:44:13 PM

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