Bill Introduced to Protect Arlene’s Flowers/Religious Freedom

Earlier this month, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a Richland, Washington florist who declined the chance to provide floral arrangements for the same-sex wedding ceremony of long-time customers.  Yesterday, Sen. Sharon Brown, whose district includes Arlene’s Flowers, introduced legislation (SB 5927) that would protect Arlene’s Flowers religious liberty and provide protection from liability for declining to provide services in situation like this.

The bill amends the state’s non-discrimination statute and states that it cannot force someone to provide services, if doing so would violate their conscience or strongly held religious convictions.  While this would apply to wedding ceremonies, including polygamous and/or same-sex wedding ceremonies, it would also apply generally to works of art, conventions, conferences, parties, or published messages like artwork, literature, or website design that could include a message that a business or individual would not be comfortable lending their services to.

This bill is a step in the right direction for freedom of religion and rights of conscience. The way the non-discrimination statute is currently being applied suggests that religious freedom is trumped by the right to never be offended or annoyed by a business’s decisions.   

The state’s non-discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and disability.  

This bill would help distinguish between discrimination based on characteristics like race, religion, or sexual orientation and a decision not to provide services for activities and/or messages that an individual or business is not supportive of.  A policy that says you don’t serve Christians or Muslims is discrimination based on religion. Declining the chance to be part of a Ramadan festival or Easter Service at the request of a Muslim or Christian may not be. 

The Attorney General’s lawsuit fails to recognize this difference.  Arlene’s Flowers had sold flowers to the gay couple involved in this lawsuit for years and even employed homosexuals.  The job of providing floral services for a wedding ceremony, however, is different than simply selling flowers to a customer because it involves going to the location, creating arrangements , and generally being part of the event.  This particular business owner was not comfortable with that. 

The question Washington citizens need to consider is whether there is still room in our civil society for people to make that decision. The only alternative is to force people to choose between their livelihood and their conscience.  That’s not liberal, that’s not libertarian, and that’s not American.

When the legislature passed a bill redefining marriage, they purposefully rejected amendments that would have protected businesses like Arlene’s Flowers from lawsuits for not wanting to provide their services for events like these.  

But when voter’s voted on Referendum 74, they had been told for a year that redefining marriage wasn’t going to affect anyone other than the same-sex couples who could get a marriage certificate.  

Now that we know that’s not true, Washington can have a conversation about whether the decision of the legislature to expose businesses and business owners to legal liability because of their beliefs about marriage was a good one. 

If Washington was “live and let live” about the definition of marriage, I suspect Washington will also be “live and let live” about perspectives on marriage as well. 

If you have thoughts about the lawsuit, you can contact Attorney General Bob Ferguson about this lawsuit by calling 360-753-6200.

You can contact your legislators and the Governor about SB 5927 through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.  Or, you can click here to email your legislators and the governor to share your thoughts about SB 5927, religious freedom, and Arlene’s Flowers. 

You can also donate to Arlene’s Flowers legal defense fund by clicking here.

Please be respectful, but please be heard.  If we don’t fix this, no one else will.


Posted by davidKCMO on July 5, 2013
I can't wait for this bigot cuntess to fall into the dustbin of discrimination this country's been stained with.
Posted by Virginia on April 30, 2013
A particular government can prohibit, promote or be neutral on its citizens behavior, ideally minimally not maximally at that. The pervading civic reason for a government to legislate marriage at all is if a particular marriage has a benefit to society. The minimal, historical, and research-supported reason to promote (by certifying) marriage is the 'production' and nurture of the next generation - children. Heterosexual unions fulfill that minimal rationale for the state to acknowledge and promote those unions. Even if a particular heterosexual union is childless by choice, medical condition or age, the civic function of 'nurture' is still underscored by this union also.
Posted by Michael C on April 29, 2013
The impetus of this proposed legislation is protecting Arlene from being forced to make sin-flowers but the effects are much more broadly reaching. This bill would nullify any protected class status that Washington has put in place that are in addition to Federal law. In addition to sexual orientation, these protected classes include; Marital status, gender identity, veteran/military status, age (King County, Seattle, Tacoma), section 8 (King County, Seattle), use of a service or assistive animal (King County), and political ideology (Seattle). In essence, this legislation would make breaking the law legal only if you felt you had a really good reason.
Posted by Scott Cannon on April 28, 2013
Honestly, all party affiliations aside this is a straight up attack on a persons civil rights. We are telling in the LGBT its okay to be gay and marry, but only if we feel comfortable with it. Using common scare tactics such as leftist or socialist is a easy tactic for those who want to bully others into follow ,not participate, in their beliefs. I have resided in Washington State for most of my life and really love living here. It's a great place to raise my five children and a great place to work. We do the best we can to teach our children that intolerance and hatred are not good HUMAN traits. I myseld was subject to this kind of discrimination. The town I graduated from; Devils Lake, ND,was next to the reservation that I am a member. The town was allowed to discriminate Native Americans in all aspects of business. This town is also 50 years in the past so that will pretty much sum up the amount of tolerance there. As good human beings we should try to accept everyone for who they are. Not what they can do for us. That is a behavior that children display when deciding whether they want to go to church.......FREE CANDY!!!! This woman and her business must admit that they are just as intolerant as the rest of all the other hate mongering, elitist groups in this country. We live in a progressive state that welcomes personal freedoms and beliefs. Using one to trumo all the rest should not be the fail safe way to keeping yours on top. This bill will not pass and the business will not get away with this.....
Posted by Jennifer Baker on April 28, 2013
To the author of this article, Joseph Backholm, you stated that "...when voter’s [sic] voted on Referendum 74, they had been told for a year that redefining marriage wasn’t going to affect anyone other than the same-sex couples who could get a marriage certificate." In fact, Referendum 74 had absolutely nothing to do with affecting anyone else. If you want to pick on legislation, you need to look further back to the 2006 amendment of Washington State's revised code that included the sexual orientation of a person as a protected class. Know your facts and stop trying to demonize Referendum 74, among other things. Otherwise, expect to be demonized yourself, along with all your other religious bigot friends. Actually, you will demonized no matter what, because of your actions to impose your silly, antiquated religious beliefs on civil society.
Posted by Jennifer Baker on April 28, 2013
Danny Somato, God is not mentioned one single time in the Constitution, and the only thing mentioned about religion at all in that document is that "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Furthermore, the Constitution was amended to state that the federal government could "make no law respecting an establishment of religion." You are right though, "To compare sexual preferences to religion is ridiculous." People are born with a sexual orientation, but religious people choose to be religious. I have a very different idea about which should be Constitutionally protected.
Posted by Danny Somato on April 26, 2013
Aunt Paddy, your comment is the same kind of leftist diatribe people have come to expect. To compare sexual preferences to religion is ridiculous. Nowhere in the constitution is homosexual activity referenced. Religion is directly referenced. Let me ask you, if a couple came in and requested a cake that would honor their interest in BDSM, would the cake maker be required to make the cake, even if it was a Christian organization with traditional values? Would they be forced? What kind of tyrant are you? Private industries have the right to see a behavior as immoral and not provide services to its adherents. The right to turn away homosexuals is the same as the right to turn away drunkards, prostitutes, and anyone else you find morally disagreeable. Freedom works both ways, Paddy.
Posted by Paul Williams on April 26, 2013
Unfortunately, this is a necessary piece of legislation to more clearly delineate the difference between discrimination based on who the customer is (which Arlene's Flowers did not do) and choosing not to provide services based on an event. If Arlene's Flowers refused to provide decorations for a KKK rally, and the customer she refused was a woman, would she be sued for gender discrimination? The argument against this would be to claim that the person and the event cannot be separated, and refusing any request made by a homosexual customer is discrimination. I have turned down photography jobs that I considered too risque or NSFW. I'll need to be careful to make sure next time the person I turn down isn't homosexual, lest I be sued out of business by the state.
Posted by BobB on April 26, 2013
Yes, your rationalization doesn't make sense. The reason the attorney general doesn't see a difference is there is none. Example, a bed and breakfast won't do business with a Christian because they will be having prayers in their rooms and at the communal dinner table. Are you saying that this would be alright on the business owner's part? It would be under this bill. Though I am confused as to even the religious justification. Jesus hung out with the Samaritans, a hated religious faction, and Paul told the Corinthians that it was ok to do business with people 'of this world', that whatever their sins might be are God's concern, not theirs. How does someone claiming to be a Christian and an American say they will religiously discriminate and not do business with people because of their religious beliefs and them acting on them? Someone following Christ's Law would have sold them the flowers and been in compliance with state law too.
Posted by Aunt Paddy on April 26, 2013
I'm wondering how they believe that anything someone believes religiously, philosophically or purely as "matter of conscience" can supersede our nations Constitution? I'm also very interested in knowing what they propose to signify who can shop in what store? Are they going to state mandate things like No JEWS ALLOWED signs? Are signs to signify discrimination going to be mandatory or are they proposing that people walk from store to store and be embarrassed by being turned away from being Muslims, Jews, Christians etc on a store by store basis? Do they intend for people to have to go into the grocery store and ask if Baptists can shop here? What level of degradation on a personal level are they trying to put into law here?
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