Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington State is suing Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The owner of the flower shop, Barronelle Stutzman, says she is a Christian and cannot in good conscience participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Nevertheless, Attorney General Ferguson says the refusal is illegal and told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer the following:
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.
So Ferguson is suing to fine Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts for every infraction of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. It would cost the company $2,000 per infraction. That means that, if enough gay couples were refused service, Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts could go out of business.
Robert Ingersol and Curt Freed are the gay couple in question, and they had been customers of Stutzman for over ten years. So the florist wasn’t refusing service to gay people in general. The florist simply didn’t want to participate in a same-sex ceremony. She describes what happened when Ingersol asked for her to provide flowers for his wedding:
He said he decided to get married and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.’ We hugged each other and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story.
Obviously, it wasn’t the end of the story. The refusal was reported to authorities, and now this Christian florist is being sued by the Washington State Attorney General.
What does this mean? It means the law of Washington State requires Christian business owners to violate their consciences by participating in same-sex weddings. In other words, the law of Washington State encodes a fundamental violation of religious liberty.
We have not seen the end of cases like this one. Unfortunately, there will likely be much more of this to come.
[I highlighted a similar story in February about a baker in Oregon who refused to provide the cake for a same-sex wedding. Read it here.]