- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2013

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a suit against a florist who refused to serve as the flower supplier for a same-sex wedding.

Gay marriage was legalized and went into effect in 2012, and hundreds of gay couples have filed for marriage licenses. The law is now being tested in a case that pits the state against Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts owner Barronelle Stutzman of Richland, Wash.

Ms. Stutzman said in a March interview with KEPR that she turned down a customer’s request to supply his same-sex wedding ceremony with flowers because of religious reasons. The man, Robert Ingersoll, was a 10-year customer of the shop, she told KEPR.

“[Mr. Ingersoll] said he decided to get married and before he got through, I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.’ We hugged each other and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story,” she said to KEPR.

But it wasn’t. Mr. Ingersoll and partner Curt Reed took to the online community to tell their flower-shop refusal — and that’s when the attorney general’s office got involved, Raw Story reported.

Mr. Ferguson sent a letter a couple weeks ago to Ms. Stutzman, advising she reconsider her decision. He then filed a consumer protection suit against her, Raw Story said. In a subsequent interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he said: “As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation. If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their wedding, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service,” he said.

The shop could be sued on several violations that carry fines of $2,000 each, Raw Story reported.

Attorneys for Ms. Stutzman said they are fully prepared for a legal fight.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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