You Won’t Believe the Reason This Elderly Woman May Lose Everything
Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman has owned her flower shop for forty years, and for nine years she had known Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll frequently ordered flowers from her, and they had become friends. A few months after same-sex marriage had become legal, Ingersoll came into the shop to ask Stutzman to provide the flowers.
It was a difficult decision for Stutzman, who is a committed Christian. She went home and discussed the request with her husband, and ultimately she decided participating in the wedding would violate her Christian beliefs. She explains, “I just took his hands and said, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.'”
The refusal began trending on social media, where it came to the attention of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson then charged the 70-year-old Stuzman with breaking Washington’s anti-discrimination law.
Recently, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom found Stutzman in violation of the law, and he granted a summary judgment ruling that she must provide the same services to same-sex couples as she does to the general public.
“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote in his decision, according to the Associated Press. “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.”
The state and the gay couple at the center of the legal battle are both able to collect damages and legal fees from Stutzman’s business — Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts — and from the florist personally, according to her attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm.
“The court somehow concluded that forcing Barronelle to create expression against her will does not violate her free speech and free exercise rights under the state and federal constitutions,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement. “To the contrary, this ruling ignores the pre-eminent civil right law of our nation – the First Amendment – and allows the state to force citizens to choose between conforming their beliefs to the state’s ideology and suffering severe consequences.”
Ekstrom had previously ruled that Stuzman could be sued personally, and the law allows for penalties of up to $2000 per violation, plus legal fees. A spokesman for the state said it is likely the fees will be enforced. Since the case began two years ago, the florist has continued to refuse to provide flowers for any same-sex marriages.
Her attorneys plan to appeal the case. Because both her business and she personally are being sued, Stuzman’s home and savings are at risk.