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Florist sued again for refusing to provide flowers for gay wedding

The ACLU has filed a discrimination lawsuit against a florist in Washington State who says she would not sell flowers for a gay couple's wedding because of her religious beliefs. The state is already prosecuting her under a consumer protection law. 

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Attorney Justin Bristol, who is representing Stutzman, told Reuters that his client expects a long legal fight, but she believes the cases violate her First Amendment rights.

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Staff writer

Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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"She is one of the few people left today willing to stand by her convictions rather than compromise her beliefs," Mr. Bristol said. "She's a very nice lady and doesn't have a discriminatory bone in her body, but she doesn't want to be forced to participate in an event that she doesn't believe in."

He told the Seattle Times, “I one hundred percent believe this is a freedom-of-expression and free-exercise-of-religion issue. What the government is saying here is that you don’t have the right to free religious exercise.”

The Seattle Times also reported that the case is reigniting the gay marriage debate in the state where 54 percent of residents voted to legalize gay marriage in November. Washington is one of nine states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized gay marriage.

Conflicts like this have been rare since same-sex unions have become legal in other areas of the US during the past decade, Equal Rights Washington spokesman Josh Friedes told the Seattle Times.

In Washington, “there have been thousands of weddings ... and this is one of very few negative stories we’ve heard,” he said.

Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed told the Associated Press that they plan to get married in September. They were customers of Stutzman's shop for years, but only when they told her of their wedding plans did she refuse to sell them flowers.

"The florist discriminated against us as a result of our sexual orientation. Because we're a gay couple, she chose not to serve us. We feel like that's something she should not be allowed to do," Freed said.

They said they, too, are prepared for a long legal battle. The ACLU lawsuit seeks damages for Ingersoll and Freed, as well as a court order barring Stutzman from discriminating against customers. The state seeks $2,000 in penalties from the business and a permanent injunction, which would require Stutzman to comply with state laws.

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