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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jesus Has Nothing to Do With It, State Says

RICHLAND, Wash. (CN) - Washington state sued a florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding "because of her personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

Sorry, the state of Washington told Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, that's illegal discrimination. The state sued the Richland-based business and owner in Benton County Court.

"On Friday, March 1, 2013, during regular business hours, Robert Ingersoll entered defendants' retail store with the intention of purchasing flowers for his upcoming wedding," the complaint states.

Ingersoll had bought stuff from the florist before, but it refused to sell him floral arrangements for his wedding, the state says.

Ingersoll is not a party to the complaint.

"Mr. Ingersoll informed Ms. Stutzman that he wanted to purchase flowers for his

Wedding," the complaint states.

"In response, Ms. Stutzman stated to Mr. Ingersoll that she could not provide flowers for his wedding 'because of [her] relationship with Jesus Christ.' Ms. Stutzman refused to sell flowers to Mr. Ingersoll.

"At the time, Ms. Stutzman was aware that Mr. Ingersoll is gay and that his upcoming wedding for which he was seeking to purchase flowers would be to another man.

"After Ms. Stutzman refused to sell him flowers, Mr. Ingersoll left the store. Mr. Ingersoll did not make any other purchases." (Brackets in complaint.)

The state claims Stutzman violated Washington laws on discrimination and consumer protection Act, by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in a place of public accommodation.

"The fact that Mr. Ingersoll, a gay man, was seeking to purchase flowers for his wedding to another man was a substantial factor in defendants' refusal to sell him flowers," the state says in the complaint.

Washington legalized gay marriage after voters approved a referendum in November 2012. The law exempts only religious organizations from providing accommodations and services related to marriage.

The state seeks an injunction against the florist to prohibit future discrimination and penalties of $2,000 per violation.

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