By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
We previously wrote HERE of Richland, Washington Florist Baronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, who caused a row when she refused to provide her floral services for a gay wedding. Now, a Benton County Superior Court Judge ruled that she violated the state’s consumer protection act that bars discrimination against a protected class.
The legal action was brought by customer Robert Ingersoll and the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Judge Alex Ekstom rejected Baronelle’s arguments that her actions were protected by free speech and religious freedom guarantees stating in part:
“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. 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.”
Robert had been a customer of Arlene’s Flowers for several years prior to the incident in question. Baronelle was aware that he was gay and had a partner Curt Freed for whom he purchased flowers. When Washington statutorily provided for gay marriage in 2012, Robert asked Baronelle to make the wedding arrangement for him. But, Baronelle declined, putting her hand upon Robert’s and stating that “because of [her] relationship with Jesus Christ”, she would not be able to do so—according to her statement in a deposition.
Curt and Robert sued. They cited the Washington Consumer Protection Act and its laws against discrimination. They supported by the Washington Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the State Attorney General who welcomed the Superior Court ruling.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement said:
“The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples.”
The state is seeking the two thousand dollar fine the statute provides.
The Alliance Defending Freedom organization announced the day after it would on behalf of Baronelle appeal the ruling. The alliance claimed that the ruling would bring financial ruin Baronelle and Arlene’s Flowers
By Darren Smith
Source: KOMO News
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