Florist at center of LGBT rights storm: ‘I’m a little grain of sand’

Barronelle Stutzman

Barronelle Stutzman

Barronelle Stutzman leaves Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick, Wash., following a hearing on June 28, 2013.Kai-Huei Yau, The Tri-City Herald (AP)

Barronelle Stutzman leaves Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick, Wash., following a hearing on June 28, 2013.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The 70-year-old grandmother who owns a flower shop in Washington state and became a national figure for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding says she was surprised her actions gained such notoriety and had often done business with the gay couple, whom she considered friends.

Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers refused the couple in 2013, and her actions were among the first in what has become a nationwide quandary for bakers and others who believe same-sex marriage conflicts with their religious beliefs.

“I’m a little grain of sand,” Stutzman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Richland, about 145 miles southwest of Spokane.

In a February ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman’s refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She has been fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees.

Stutzman believes the judge’s decision prevents her from practicing her Southern Baptist faith.

She plans to appeal the decision, which could leave her liable for legal fees and court costs that reach over $1 million, her attorney said.

More than $85,000 has been raised in a crowdfunding campaign to help Stutzman pay legal bills.

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The judge’s ruling also required that everything Arlene’s Flowers sells to opposite-sex couples has to be available at the same price to same-sex couples.

Because of that, Stutzman is no longer providing flowers for weddings, which has cut substantially into her business.

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