- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2015

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has offered florist Barronelle Stutzman a deal: She can cater to same-sex weddings or she can stop doing weddings altogether.

Of course, there’s always a third option: She can go out of business.

Ms. Stutzman, the 70-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, is opting for none of the above.

“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about,” Ms. Stutzman said in a letter to Mr. Ferguson. “It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

Ms. Stutzman rejected Friday a settlement agreement offered by Mr. Ferguson that would have required her to pay $2,001 in damages and legal fees after a judge ruled last week that she violated state law by declining to provide services for a same-sex wedding.

“My primary goal has always been to bring about an end to the Defendants’ unlawful conduct and to make clear that I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mr. Ferguson said in a statement.

The agreement also would require Ms. Stutzman to agree “not to discriminate in the future,” which means she must provide custom floral arrangements for same-sex weddings or stop doing weddings altogether, said Peter LaVallee, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

“To be clear, Washington law, and the Attorney General’s proposal, would require equal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples,” Mr. LaVallee said in an email. “Arlene’s Flowers would not be required to service same-sex weddings, unless the business serves opposite-sex weddings.”

About 3 percent of the shop’s business is from wedding arrangements, and Ms. Stutzman has temporarily stopped providing flowers for weddings while her litigation is ongoing. She plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer representing Ms. Stutzman, said the settlement offer was unacceptable because it would require the florist either to “surrender her freedoms or violate her conscience.”

Barronelle has always had the option to just stop doing weddings,” Ms. Waggoner said in an email. “The settlement offer offers nothing she hasn’t had the right to do from the beginning. The point is that she must forgo all weddings, the part of her craft that she loves, or violate her conscience.”

Ms. Stutzman has said she has hired gay employees and served any number of gay customers over the years, but her Christian beliefs prevent her from participating in a same-sex wedding. Such services would include “custom design work to decorate the ceremony, delivery to the forum, staying at the ceremony to touch up arrangements, and assisting the wedding party,” the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement.

One of the men who sued her, Robert Ingersoll, had been a client for nearly a decade, she said.

“I pray that you reconsider your position,” Ms. Stutzman said in her letter to Mr. Ferguson. “I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case.”

She concluded, “You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process.”

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