Tag Archives: arlene’s flowers

Washington Supreme Court: Florist broke the law by denying service to gay couple

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Feb.16 that a florist in Richland violated a state anti-discrimination law when she denied service to a same-sex couple planning to marry.

Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were refused service by Arlene’s Flowers because they are gay.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Washington are representing Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit against the florist for violating their rights.

The suit, Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, was heard jointly with the consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers brought by the state of Washington.

“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of law and the right side of history,” said Freed and Ingersoll. “We felt it was so important that we stand up against discrimination because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We are so glad that we stood up for our rights.”

Freed and Ingersoll have been a couple since 2004. In December 2012, Freed proposed marriage to Ingersoll and the two became engaged.

They were planning for a wedding to be held on their anniversary in September 2013.

Having purchased goods from Arlene’s Flowers on other occasions, Ingersoll  approached the florist to arrange for flowers for the wedding. He was told the business would not sell the couple flowers because of the owner’s religious beliefs.

The Washington Law Against Discrimination guarantees the right to be free from discrimination in public accommodations based on race, creed, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Thus, it prohibits businesses that are open to the general public from refusing to sell goods, merchandise and services because of a person’s sexual orientation.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project. “But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When people experience acts of discrimination, they feel that they are not full and equal members of our society, and we’re delighted that the Washington Supreme Court has recognized this.”

The state supreme court’s decision upheld a 2015 ruling by Benton County Superior Court that the refusal of Arlene’s Flowers to sell flowers to the couple violated the longstanding Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act.

“Freedom of religion is fundamental to American society, that’s why it is firmly protected by the U.S. Constitution. People should also never use their personal religious beliefs as a free pass to violate the law or the basic civil rights of others,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “Businesses who are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. We congratulate the ACLU on their important victory in this case upholding fairness and equality under the law.”

Ingersoll and Freed are represented by ACLU cooperating attorneys Michael Scott, Amit Ranade and Jake Ewart of Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S., ACLU of Washington Staff Attorney Margaret Chen, and ACLU LGBT and HIV Project Staff Attorney Elizabeth Gill.

Did you know

Washington is one of 19 states that provide protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Judge rules against florist who refused gays’ business

A judge has decided the state of Washington has the authority to bring a consumer protection lawsuit against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom also ruled recently that the owner of the Richland, Washington, flower shop can be held personally liable for violating the Consumer Protection Act.

Barronelle Stutzman and her shop, Arlene’s Flowers, are being sued for refusing to sell flowers for a 2013 same-sex wedding.

The judge still has two more motions to rule on in the lawsuit, including whether the facts case show the florist violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

The state attorney general is asking for a permanent injunction requiring Stutzman and her shop to comply with the consumer protection law.

Florist refuses flowers for same-sex wedding, makes free speech case

The lawyer for a Richland, Wash., florist sued for refusing to provide flowers for a gay marriage hopes to move the state lawsuit to federal court as a free speech case.

“What the state is saying is you are compelled to express assent on an issue that you don’t agree with, and that violates the First Amendment,” said attorney Justin D. Bristol, of Snohomish.

It’s not about discrimination, he said.

Bristol represents Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers. In March, Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the wedding of two long-time customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, of Kennewick, because of her religious objection to gay marriage.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a consumer protection lawsuit earlier this week against Stutzman for refusing the flower arrangements. It’s unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of 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,” Ferguson said in a statement.

In the complaint filed on April 9 in Benton County Superior Court, the attorney general’s office seeks a court order requiring Arlene’s Flowers to comply with consumer protection law. The state also seeks a $2,000 fine.

Ferguson was elected in November’s election when Washington voters also passed a referendum affirming legal rights for same-sex marriage.

A person who answered the phone at Arlene’s on April 10 said Stutzman isn’t talking about the case. Bristol said Stutzman doesn’t discriminate against gays and has served them as customers and hired them as employees.

“It’s not a public accommodation case,” he said. “She simply doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

It’s a religious issue and also one of expression, Bristol said.

Most free speech cases involve the government trying to prevent speech or expression, but in this case the government is trying to force Stutzman to express herself through flower-arranging in support of something she doesn’t believe in, Bristol said.

“Can the state require a painter to paint a portrait of a gay couple? Could the state require a musician to write a song?” Bristol asked. “Can the government compel them to say something they don’t want to say? It violates the First Amendment.”