State of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection suit against Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, the Richmond, Washington florist who refused to supply flowers for a same sex wedding.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ferguson sent a letter on March 28 to Arlene’s owner Barronelle Stutzman to reconsider her decision not to supply flowers for the wedding of customer Robert Ingersoll. Stutzman declined by way of her attorney.
Ferguson told the Post-Intelligencer, “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 weddings, then it must provide same sex couples the same product or service.”
Stutzman was not on the premises when the Intelligencer called Arlene’s. An employee who answered the phone said, “None of us will have any comment.”
In a March interview with KEPR, Stutzman recounted her conversation with Ingersoll, a ten-year customer, about why she would not accept his request for flowers to decorate a same sex wedding.
“He (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,’” said Stutzman. “We hugged each other and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story.”
Even after Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed, also an Arlene’s customer, went online with their story, which sparked outrage around the world, Stutzman refused to change her decision.
“It’s a personal conviction,” she insisted. “It’s not a matter of being right or wrong. It’s my belief.”
Ferguson’s office filed the complaint in Benton Country Superior Court, not just asking for compliance in the Ingersoll case, but requesting a permanent injunction forcing Arlene’s to provide services without discrimination. Each violation of the rules would result in a $2,000 fine against the shop.
Stutzman’s attorneys told the Intelligencer that they are enlisting the aid of anti-marriage equality groups across the country. Any legal action Ferguson takes can expect to be met by “an immediate challenge in federal court” and that “a number of national non-profit organizations” are “ready for a fight.”
Watch Stutzman’s interview with KEPR, which aired in March, and is embedded below: