In March, Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts in Richland, Washington refused to provide wedding flowers to Rob Ingersoll and his partner, even though they’d been long-time customers of the florist. After owner Barronelle Stutzman informed Ingersoll that she could not provide the flowers because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ,” Ingersoll shared his story online and the news went viral.
Now, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers for violating the state’s nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation:
FERGUSON: As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. 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 suit asks for a permanent injunction against future discrimination and a $2,000 fine for every violation. An employee at Arlene’s told KEPR-TV that “none of us will have any comment.” Stutzman’s attorney’s warned Ferguson that “a number of national non-profit organizations… are ready for a fight,” perhaps referring to groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which regularly defends individuals when it believes their “religious liberty” has been infringed upon.
It’s important to note that Stutzman would have been violating Washington law even if marriage equality had not passed in November. State nondiscrimination policies protect gay couples from any business that would try to refuse them service, whether the service was related to a wedding or not. Incidentally, ADF recently highlighted five examples of how same-sex marriage “threatens” biblical beliefs, but none of them actually took place it states where same-sex marriage was legal.