A Richland florist who is being sued by the state attorney general for refusing to provide wedding flowers to a same-sex couple has filed a countersuit.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit last month against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland. The lawsuit is in response to a March 1 incident where she refused service to a longtime customer.
Stutzman said on the shop’s Facebook page that she told the customer she could not provide flowers for the wedding “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Ferguson seeks a permanent injunction requiring the store to comply with the state's consumer protection laws and seeks at least $2,000 in fines.
The Alliance Defending Freedom issued a statement Thursday, saying it is representing Stutzman in the countersuit. It says Stutzman has employed people who identify as homosexual. Despite this, she feels she’s being discriminated.
“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions,” said Alliance Senior Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs. It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”
The countersuit argues that the state Constitution protects Stutzman.
Under Washington state’s same-sex marriage law, religious organizations are protected from refusing to perform ceremonies. But sexual orientation is protected under the state’s anti-discrimination law, which was expanded in 2006.