A state judge has determined that the government can force a floral designer to do custom design work and provide wedding support services even if she has a religious conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman. Barronelle Stutzman was found guilty for referring her friend and long-time customer to another florist because the customer wanted her to design floral arrangements and provide services for a same-sex wedding. Barronelle’s referral ensured the customer received the services he wanted, but has been labeled “discrimination” under Washington law.
The court also ruled that both the state and the couple may collect damages and attorneys’ fees not only from the floral shop, but also from Stutzman personally.
The court said:
“On the evening of November 5, 2012, there was no conflict … The following evening, after the … enactment of same-sex marriage, there would eventually be a direct and insoluble conflict between Stutzman’s religiously motivated conduct and the laws of the State of Washington. Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly-licensed business, Arlene’s Flowers.”
…“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage,” said Ms. Waggoner, who represents the florist, in a statement.
Ms. Stutzman was sued by the state of Washington and two men who had asked her in March 2013 to prepare flowers for their wedding, several months after the state approved gay marriage in 2012. One of the men, Robert Ingersoll, had been a customer of Arlene’s Flowers for nearly a decade.
Ms. Stutzman, who had served gay customers over the years, declined to create the custom floral arrangements for the wedding but referred the men to several other local florists.
“The two men had no problem getting the flowers they wanted. They received several offers for free flowers, and the marketplace gives them plenty of options,” Ms. Waggoner said. “Laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination might sound good, but the government has begun to use these laws to hurt people – to force them to conform and to silence and punish them if they don’t violate their religious beliefs on marriage.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson praised the judge’s ruling Wednesday, saying, “The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples.”…
“America would be a better place if citizens respected each others’ differences and the government still protected the freedom to have those differences,” said Ms. Stutzman. “Instead, the government is coming after me and everything I have just because I won’t live my life the way the state says I should.”