- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2015

The owner of a Washington state floral shop was ordered Friday to pay $1,000 to the state for refusing to “do the flowers” for a gay wedding.

Barronelle Stutzman’s lawyer, however, says the modest fine — which includes another dollar for attorney’s fees — is only the beginning.

Ms. Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., is also liable for an award of actual damages to plaintiffs Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom said in his March 27 order.

Those amounts will be determined in additional court appearances.

Ms. Stutzman’s lawyer warned that the 70-year-old grandmother could be financially wiped out by the judge’s order.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of the gay couple, “has asked the court to award them penalties, fees and costs,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

This could “devastate” Ms. Stutzman’s business and personal assets – including her retirement and personal savings, said Ms. Waggoner.

“The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: Surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin,” Ms. Waggoner said.

Judge Ekstrom’s order said Ms. Stutzman must make sure all goods, merchandise and services are offered to customers “without regard to sexual orientation.”

The order includes a hand-written note that specifies that goods and services “for weddings and commitment ceremonies” are included.

Ms. Stutzman was taken to court in 2013 by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson after Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed complained about Ms. Stutzman’s refusal to make wedding flowers for them.

The gay couple and the State of Washington sued her for violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination Act.

Friday’s order said Ms. Stutzman must give $1,000, plus $1 for attorney’s fees,  to the attorney general’s office within 60 days after any appeal becomes final.

Ms. Stutzman has argued that she hired gay employees and served gay customers, including Mr. Ingersoll, for years, but could not participate in a same-sex wedding due to her religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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