The owner of a flower shop can be held personally liable in court for refusing to supply flowers for a same-sex wedding.
This means that if the owner loses the lawsuit, her personal assets (such as her home) as well as the business assets could be a risk to satisfy a potential legal judgment.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, great-grandmother Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., found herself sued by Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, when she told a long-time customer that her “relationship with Jesus Christ” wouldn’t allow her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding.
In 2013, Ferguson brought the case against Stutzman under Washington State’s Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits sexual orientation discrimination by any entity considered a public accommodation. The wheels of justice move slowly, and last week, a state judge ruled in the pending case that Stutzman in her individual capacity could be sued along with her business. She may also face charges for allegedly violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination. AG Ferguson has also petitioned the court for a permanent injunction requiring compliance by Arlene’s Flowers with the consumer protection statute.
A florist for 40 years, Stutzman is being represented in the case by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty advocacy group which produced the video supporting Stutzman’s cause embedded below.
According to ADF attorney Kristen Wagggoner, “it is unprecedented for the Washington attorney general’s office to sue a family business owner in a personal capacity unless that owner has committed acts of fraud or misrepresentation,” The Daily Signal reported.
Added Waggoner who noted that the protracted legal wrangling could potentially cripple Stutzman’s small business, “Barronelle and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages.”
Other Christian-owned small businesses, including but not limited to bakeries, both here and in Europe have found themselves hauled into court for their unwillingness to participate in gay marriage-related transactions.
Leaving aside for a moment whether one supports same-sex marriage, an issue always arises in these scenarios as to whether it would be more effective for disgruntled customers to take their business elsewhere to readily available alternative vendors rather than getting lawyers, judges, and bureaucrats involved.
As The Inquisitr detailed late last year, a lesbian couple who own a T-shirt business spoke up for a Christian-owned Kentucky company in legal jeopardy that declined to produce gay pride T-shirts on the basis of religious principles. “We feel this really isn’t a gay or straight issue. This is a human issue. No one really should be forced to do something against what they believe in. It’s as simple as that. And we feel likewise,” one of the owners declared.
Should businesses such as Arlene’s Flowers have the right to abide by religious tenets in the way they run their day-to-day operations without government interference or is that unacceptable when individual rights appear to be implicated? In the context of same-sex weddings, can religious liberty and civil rights be compatible?
[image via YouTube]