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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. 

By Correspondent / April 19, 2013



A Washington florist is being sued by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the state attorney general for refusing to provide service to a gay couple planning their wedding, a legal tangle that has pitted antidiscrimination policy against religious freedom.

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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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The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., discriminated against Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, who are longtime patrons of the shop. Last week, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Ms. Stutzman, the first discrimination case based on sexual orientation brought by the Attorney General's Office, reports the Seattle Times.

In court documents, Stutzman said she would not sell flowers for a same-sex wedding because of her religious beliefs, reports Reuters.

“The refusal to sell flowers to the couple is a disturbing reminder of the unequal treatment that gay men and women have experienced over the years,” said Sarah Dunne, ACLU of Washington legal director, in a statement. “When a business serves the general public, the business owner’s religious beliefs may not be used to justify discrimination.”

Washington law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, which applies to businesses selling goods and providing services, the ACLU statement said.

“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mr. Ferguson said in a statement on April 9. “If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service.”

Ferguson sent a letter to Stutzman in March asking her to reconsider her decision, but her attorney said she would challenge the state action and ACLU lawsuit, Reuters reported.

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