Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who refused to supply flowers for a same-sex wedding, has filed a countersuit claiming that her religious freedoms gives her the right to deny service.
Stutzman, who owns Arlene's Flowers in Richland, was sued by Bob Ferguson, the state 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 wedding.
The men at the center of the case, Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed, have been buying flowers from Stutzman for nearly a decade. When Stutzman told Ingersoll that she wouldn't be supplying the flowers for their wedding, she thought the case was closed. But after the couple posted about her refusal, Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against her.
Weeks after Ferguson's lawsuit, a Republican senator introduced a bill that would allow businesses the right to deny services or goods if they felt the action was contrary to their "sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience." The bill was introduced as a response to the ACLU's lawsuit against Stutzman.
Stutzman is now filing her own lawsuit, saying that she has hired openly gay employees and has served gay clients, but that she will not provide flowers for gay marriages because of her religious beliefs. The suit was filed on her behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that advocates "for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."
The lawsuit says that, because of Stutzman's Christian faith, "she cannot as a matter of conscience participate in or facilitate a same-sex wedding." The suit also claims that Stutzman's 1st Amendment rights are being violated by trying to force her to provide for same-sex weddings.
"Everyone knows that plenty of florists are willing to assist in same-sex ceremonies, so the state has no reason to force Barronelle to violate her deeply held beliefs," the alliance's senior legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt said.
Do you think Barronelle Stutzman should be allowed to deny service for religious reasons? If so, should she stop serving gay clients altogether?