News (USA)

Judge asked to rule against florist who refused services for gay couple’s wedding

Judge asked to rule against florist who refused services for gay couple’s wedding

PROSSER, Wash. — Attorneys for the state of Washington state and a same-sex couple asked a judge on Friday to rule against a Richland, Wash., flower shop they say violated the state’s non-discrimination law.

Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash.
Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash.

The case against Barronelle Stutzman, 68, and her shop, Arlene’s Flowers, stems from a complaint that Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the couple’s 2013 wedding.

Attorneys for the state and the couple asked Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom on Friday to rule in their favor without need for a trial, saying relevant facts aren’t in dispute, reports the Tri-City Herald.

The state says Arlene’s Flowers refused to provide flowers and services to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.

Having purchased goods from Arlene’s Flowers on many occasions, Ingersoll says that when he approached Stutzman in March 2013 about providing flowers for his same-sex wedding, Stutzman said she would not sell the couple flowers because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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The Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination because of sexual orientation. It bars businesses from refusing to sell goods, merchandise, and services to any person because of their sexual orientation. The courts have found that businesses open to the general public may not violate anti-discrimination laws, even on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Stutzman’s lawyers say she declined not because of the couple’s sexual orientation, but because of her religious views on marriage. They say she has a right to free speech and exercise of religion.

Stutzman’s lawyers brought their own motion for a summary judgment.

The judge made no decision after the three-hour hearing. A trial is set for next year.

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