Judge Rules Against Arlene’s Flowers

In a decision that has significant implications for business owners who hold the historic view on issues of marriage and sexuality, a Benton County Superior Court Judge ruled yesterday that it is illegal to refer business for same-sex ceremonies if you are willing to provide business for any wedding.

Judge Alex Eckstrom ruled that Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, violated Washington State’s non-discrimination law when she declined to provide floral services for a long-time customer.

As a result, both the business and personal assets of Barronelle Stutzman are at risk of state seizure.

In his ruling, the judge quickly dismissed the idea that the First Amendment’s guarantee to the free exercise of religion protected Arlene’s Flowers.

In support of his conclusion that the non-discrimination law trumps whatever protections the First Amendment might have once offered, he favorably cited the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that being forced to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony was the “price of citizenship.”

The judge also rejected the argument that the Washington State Constitution’s conscience protections offered any relief.

The State Constitution says that “[a]bsolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual….”

However, the judge concluded that the state could force businesses to choose between their faith and business because the state can restrict religious practices “inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.”

Apparently, declining to be part of a same-sex wedding is now “inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.”

While the founders came to this country to flee religious oppression, the court has essentially said that anyone who holds to the historical understanding of marriage and sexuality may not be in the wedding industry.

A couple points to keep in mind with all of this.

Arlene’s Flowers did not and does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. She happily serves people who identify as gay, including the customers involved in this incident for nine years.

This was an event that she did not want to be part of.

Opponents of conscience rights argue that if she’s allowed not to be part of a same-sex ceremony that “White’s Only” signs will start appearing in store windows throughout the land.

Here’s the difference.

She objected to the service being requested, not the person requesting the service.

It’s a big difference.

It’s the difference between having a “White’s Only” sign in your business and deciding not to print material for the Black Panthers because you don’t like what they’re about.

One is overt bigotry, the other is simply the ability to be yourself.

Yesterday’s decision is not the end of the story for Arlene’s Flowers. This decision will likely be appealed, and many subsequent decisions may be appealed as well. It could be years before there is a final resolution to this dispute.

However, the need for people to stand alongside Barronelle Stutzman and demonstrate to our government that she is not alone is critical.

Please call your legislators now at 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to act to protect religious freedom. You can also email them by clicking here. Have your friends do the same.

The legislature can solve this problem quickly if they are compelled to.

You can also call Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed this lawsuit at 360-753-6200.

Please be respectful in all your comments, but please be heard.

Some are passionately committed to creating a country in which diversity has been thrown on the ash heap of history.

Unless our commitment to preserving religious freedom and conscience rights exceeds their commitment to destroying them, we’ll lose. Just like Barronelle Stutzman did yesterday.

41 replies
  1. Sam
    Sam says:

    The Washington State Constitution is the Law. It states we have a freedom of conscience. If we cannot have feelings concerning Homosexuality, “Homosexual Marriage” then why should we have feelings against murder, stealing etc. Where do we get our law concerning murder etc.?
    2 Peter 2:4-9

    Reply
  2. R.L.Bernard
    R.L.Bernard says:

    I wonder what precedent this sets? If a florist can be forced to decorate for a same-sex wedding (or forced out of business by the courts for refusing), then could a photographer decline to take photos at that wedding reception? I doubt it. Even if the behavior at the wedding reception gets “graphic”? What if the photographer objects to taking pictures reflecting “50 Shades of Gray” but the participants insist that refusal is an attack on their “sexual orientation”? Who would decide what behavior crosses the line if the photographer himself cannot apply his own conscience? Will a judge be the only one who is allowed the “conscience” to decide what does and does not “cross the line” in our Huxlian brave new world?

    And since the Sexual Revolution is far from over, what happens as the Sexual Revolution moves into new venues? I’ve already had a case of adult-to-adult consensual incest cross my desk. (Not to mention accidental incest in our society where fatherless children don’t know their half-siblings.) No doubt the incestuous could call it their “sexual orientation” to be attracted to “same blood” based on genetic compatability. And they can point to other cultures like ancient Egypt (Cleopatra was married to her brother). In another 20-40 years, laws against adult consensual incest could be struck down by the courts or legislatures as unconstitutional (applying existing homosexual case law as precedent), and then activist groups would promote incestuous marriage between consenting adults as the new “marriage equality” with new laws that condemn anyone who doesn’t want to service incestuous marriage because it violates conscience.

    Of course, some in the Sexual Revolution are already challenging their own standard of “two consenting adults,” saying why only two? In my profession, I am aware of people already living in threesomes. I’m sure they consider it their “sexual orientation” to be attracted to multiples. The French have historically called it the menage a trois (household of three). So it is not altogether unforeseeable that at some point in the ever-expanding Sexual Revolution, group relationships could be legalized and group marriage between consenting adults would then become the new marriage equality with laws condemning anyone who doesn’t want to service a group marriage based on conscience.

    Presently, homosexuals call traditional Christians bigots for disapproving of homosexual conduct. But as the Sexual Revolution moves on into new territory, will the further sexual expansion ever start offending the homosexual conscience? Will they ever say, “Now wait a minite! That goes too far”?? Ironically, when that moment comes, they will discover that their own case law history has set the legal precedent for silencing their consciences too.

    Eventually, the only one allowed to act upon “conscience” — if you can call it that — would be the judge who imposes the prevailing political correctness.

    Reply
  3. JimT
    JimT says:

    Ms.Stutzmann served and continues to serve everyone including the LGBT community. To make an anology of whites only service is completely incorrect. It’s not about the people she serves, it’s about the type of service she provides. A business owner has the right to decide what service they wish to provide.

    Reply
  4. Paul Robertson
    Paul Robertson says:

    There is no case for discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to Attorney General Bob Ferguson when he spoke to KONA Radio after the court’s decision. “If you have a business and you provide a service to heterosexual customers you must provide the same service to your gay customers,” Has this business ever done flowers for a heterosexual marrying someone of the same sex? If not, then they shouldn’t be required by law to do the flowers for a homosexual marrying someone of the same sex. They may also have done flowers for a homosexual marrying someone of the opposite sex with or without knowing it. They certainly have provided exactly the same services over the years regardless of sexual orientation. Thy could testify under oath that they have never denied anyone service or employment because of his or her sexual orientation and no one could provide evidence to the contrary. They just don’t do same-sex weddings for anyone – regardless of sexual orientation.

    Reply
  5. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    As Christians, we cannot expect fair treatment in this world. It is not accepting defeat to take the AG offer. Christians can not win in this because the law in this case is based on what the “world” thinks. And we as Christians know who runs this world. In a country that kills babies, what kind of justice do we expect! My attorney ( a wonderful Christian man) told me “justice is an accident”! Gonna have to give it to God! And thank God for all the taxpayer money spent on this instead of something useful! Thanks Bob!

    Reply
    • John
      John says:

      I completely agreed although completely frustrated. Here is a group that as I remember the arguments for voting for the right to marriage was for us to be tolerant of their rights for marriage but where in the heck is their tolerance for our rights as a Christians. As I can say is what goes around will come around on the day that our lord & Saviour come backs to judge the world.

      I find it just very frustrating to listen to their arguments and they are calling us bigots!

      Rest in peace.

      Reply
      • Bernadette Quinn
        Bernadette Quinn says:

        Ever since I saw this plight of the florist I’ve been praying for her and all independent proprietors to be shielded by God for their righteousness. I believe the perpetrators pick and choose and target the known Christian business proprietors to bring vengeance on them. I’ll keep asking God to direct them

        Reply
  6. Agamotto Vishanti
    Agamotto Vishanti says:

    The Attorney General has offered to settle the case right now for the $2,000 fine and $1 in legal fees for a promise to continue obeying the law which the owner is accomplushing now by just not offering wedding floral services.

    So ball is in Baronelle’s court – just how puffed up is she or will she take this generous solution?

    Or will the ADF let her take it?

    Reply
    • Sam
      Sam says:

      @Agaotto It is obvious you do not understand that when the Lord Jesus regenerates our conscience. there are somethings we cannot do. One example is the Christians who are threatened with death or become a islam.

      Reply
  7. Saint John the Baptist
    Saint John the Baptist says:

    Ron: So according to you pointing out the truth is ‘bigotry’? Nice try, Unitarian. Grow up and move past the name calling. It proves you have nothing rational to add to the discussion at hand.

    Reply
  8. Brenda Wiseman
    Brenda Wiseman says:

    Most everyone in the wedding industry got into the business BEFORE marriage was conveniently redefined. There are plenty of businesses that have no religious issues with same sex weddings. The GLBT community needs to frequent those instead of targeting (yes, I said it) businesses that hold religious beliefs. It is NOT okay for one group to have the power and legal right to override religious beliefs. And exactly WHY are homosexuals being lumped into ethnic groups??? They are NOT an ethnic group, they are people who choose a different lifestyle. They are free to pursue their choice. Just NOT at the expense of other’s religious freedom. It’s a sad day in this country and shows me that the GLBT community isn’t merely satisfied that they’ve destroyed marriage. They want to destroy anyone who won’t silently go along with them. I believe that we ask need to live and let live. I do not condone hate speech or actions, but this is a business POLITELY declining service. Where is the so called hate in that? Are we going to redefine the weird hate too?

    Reply
  9. Sam
    Sam says:

    What the “attorney general” has failed to address is the Washington State Constitution that protects the citizens conscience objections. When the “government” can force citizens to act against their conscience. What about murder, fraud, etc. and other things that violate the regenerated conscience.

    Reply
    • Ron Lussier
      Ron Lussier says:

      If your company’s business is murder, you’re already breaking the law. Making bouquets of flowers is not against the law, and a public accommodation in Washington State cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.

      Reply
      • Joseph Backholm
        Joseph Backholm says:

        Ron, would you say a print shop owner should be required to print material for the Black Panthers even if he disagrees with their mission and beliefs simply because all of its members are black and they wouldn’t be part of the Black Panthers if they weren’t?

        Reply
          • Joseph Backholm
            Joseph Backholm says:

            I apparently didn’t make my point clear.

            The state in this case is arguing that the fact that she is willing to serve any weddings means she has to serve a same-sex wedding because, but for the fact that they are gay, they wouldn’t be having a gay wedding.

            Caterers are generally willing to serve community events. Should someone who disagrees with the ideas expressed at a Black Panther event (who would happily serve the exact same people at a different event) be forced to do the event because race is a protected class and, but for the fact that they are black, they wouldn’t be part of the Black Panthers?

      • Sam
        Sam says:

        The Washington State Constitution is the Law. It states we have a freedom of conscience. If we cannot have feelings concerning Homosexuality, “Homosexual Marriage” then why should we have feelings against murder, stealing etc. Where do we get our law concerning murder etc.?

        Reply
  10. Agamotto Vishanti
    Agamotto Vishanti says:

    Again, the ruling that was predicted. Read the 60 page ruling that covers all of the ADF’s attempts to wiggle past the law and the multiple laws and precedences that shoots them all down.

    If Mz. Stutzman doesn’t want to sell wedding floral arrangements to people of all faiths then she just should continue to do what she is doing now – not sell them at all.

    And I’m sure the ADF will pay any fines or attorney fees since they are the ones who gave her the false hope she could win.

    Reply
  11. Saint John the Baptist
    Saint John the Baptist says:

    Ron: 1) My screen name is my business, thank you. And how do I know your name is ‘real’? 2) The truth hurts, Unitarian. If the truth insults you I suggest you find some thicker skin.

    Reply
    • Ron Lussier
      Ron Lussier says:

      It’s my real name. I’m not ashamed of what I say. Please feel free to visit my web site and view my photography. (Linked above.)

      And your bigotry has no place on a Christian blog. Our founding fathers John Adams & John Quincy Adams were Unitarians. Presidents William Howard Taft & Millard Fillmore were also Unitarians.

      Reply
  12. Saint John the Baptist
    Saint John the Baptist says:

    Ron: Arlene is a Christian. Christians believe the Bible. The Bible states homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is between one man and one woman. Being a Unitarian I understand you have little use for or understanding of the Bible. By the way, the issue is not about selling flowers or cakes. The issue is about becoming part of a ceremony that violates ones religious beliefs. Got that? Rebecca: The laws of man change all the time. God’s laws never change. So if the government passed a law shutting down all churches that means they should happily go away?

    Reply
    • Agamotto Vishanti
      Agamotto Vishanti says:

      If she can’t sell them to people of all faiths then she shouldn’t be selling them as a public accommodation. She is the one with the need to religiously discriminate, its up to her to figure out a way to do so and be in compliance with the law.

      Reply
  13. Dan
    Dan says:

    Rebecca – what’s simple is the distinction between the service being requested, not the person requesting the service. Stutzman serves Ingersoll on over 20 occasions knowing full well he was buying flowers for his partner for birthdays and holidays. But buying for a same-sex wedding ceremony means she is using her artistic abilities to support something contrary to her beliefs and she should not be forced to do so.

    And about laws – you obviously haven’t read the news about that whole Hobby Lobby/Conestoga case….

    Reply
    • Ron Lussier
      Ron Lussier says:

      Ms. Stutzman may have catered to the plaintiffs in the past. That doesn’t mean that her most recent actions were not discrimination. Clearly they were.

      Reply
  14. Joe Fuiten
    Joe Fuiten says:

    Religious freedom now apparently only applies to private thoughts within your head and cannot be applied to anything you might actually do. The law as it presently exists takes away her religious freedom. Now the law will move to take away her home as well to punish her for exercising her religious freedom.

    Reply
      • Mick
        Mick says:

        If you printed signs and posters for a living , and the Klan asked you to make posters suggesting the inferiority of gays and lesbians , would you do it . I sure would have a problem with it , and I like to think I would refuse to do it . It would against my conscience as a Christian to print those posters and mocking people based on their orientation . I suppose the law says I would have to , but not sure why your so happy about it .

        Reply
        • Ron Lussier
          Ron Lussier says:

          I would not do it, but the reason wouldn’t be religious discrimination or discrimination based on sexual orientation, both of which are against the law. Refusing to participate in hate speech is perfectly legal.

          Reply
          • Izzy
            Izzy says:

            She refused to consent by withholding her creative art at an event in which her heart and mind are not into. She is honest and honestly is not against the law.

  15. Ron Lussier
    Ron Lussier says:

    Clearly Arlene’s Flowers (the business) was discriminating against the couple because they were gay. The business catered to straight weddings, but not to gay weddings. That’s against the law, our and simple. Barronelle Stutzman can have any personal beliefs she desires, but she cannot practice religious discrimination against her customers. She cannot refuse, for example, to make cakes for Jewish or Catholic weddings. Nor can she refuse to make cakes for other faiths who oppose discrimination against gay people (such as mine, the Unitarians.)

    The argument that Ms. Stutzman favors a ‘historic’ view of marriage ignores history. In Judeo-Christian history, marriages were between one man and multiple women. In American history, native american marriages were between a man and one or more men *and* women. Chinese emperors took male spouses. Tibetan women take multiple husbands.

    The ‘marriage has always been one man and one woman’ lie is simply a way to raise money playing off of the historical ignorance of others.

    Reply
    • Mick
      Mick says:

      Ron not exactly , in 1877 the court stopped a petition for polygamous marriage . Have not seen the Unitarian Church stepping up and defending their rights ? Also no time was polygamous marriage ever supported in scripture . King David committed adultery , it does not mean adultery is supported . Scripture speaks to being fair , it accepts what has happened . It teaches to be fair if a neighbor kills an ox or if a man has two wives , it never endorses killing your neighbors ox or having two wives . Just like our case law it speaks to situations . You can be free to choose how you look at scripture , using it to mock other religious beliefs is not how I look at it . . Also since when does this case in the state court give you the higher moral ground to be insulting any religious belief . Traditional marriage is still legal in this country , a person can marry a spouse , have a covenant supported by their God . Also that covenant does not discriminate against gender as you support , but gender has equal access to marriage in Traditional marriage . Your concept suggests gender is un important in a marriage relationship . That’s legal , but it does not mean marriage supported by religious faith is not legal also . The belief God made genders for a reason is not hateful or impractical either . Even science speaks to distinct differences in gender . Even homosexuals have come out and supported traditional marriage , they like the idea of a system that supports moms and dads being the standard as a good thing . Your going to mock their religion ?

      Just because it is an aspect in court does not suggest your bigoted comments are anything but rude . Besides personally I would have no problem going to a gay wedding . Would feel nice to be asked to go to any friends wedding . But I totally respect the conscience of others on this matter .

      In this country we still choose to discriminate against polygamous couples . Also bisexual marriages supporting their orientation to have both genders is . Sounds like you just supporting the latest fad and actually only respect others when it is convenient for you to .

      Reply
      • Ron Lussier
        Ron Lussier says:

        You think that same-sex marriages are a fad? Seriously?

        Yes, the court ruled in 1877 that polyamorous marriages are not allowed. But what does that have to do with marriage equality? Courts ruled in favor of banning interracial marriages until 1967.

        You might want to read my post again. I’m criticizing the generalization about the history of marriage. It’s an absolutely falsehood that it’s always been ‘one man and one woman’. It’s not true for Judeo-Christian history, it’s not true for American history, and it’s not even true today. (A friend’s grandfather from Cambodia had two wives, and many men in the middle east have multiple wives.)

        Also, I never mocked your beliefs. I ask that you respect the beliefs of all religions. In my (Christian) religion, we celebrate marriages between same-sex couples. We don’t force other denominations to perform them, but we ask that they not interfere with our sacraments.

        Those sacraments don’t involve floral arrangements, baking cakes, or sewing dresses. I don’t know of any religious practices that include those acts in their services. Do you?

        Reply
        • daniwitz13
          daniwitz13 says:

          What I believe is that You and this Judge are clueless on Life and reality. When one offers to accommodate in a business, it has to take into consideration of what kind of business it is and other circumstances. If I am a house painter and advertise it as such, and you answer my ad, do I HAVE to paint your house? Hell no. If I advertise myself as an Architect, do I HAVE to draw your plans? Hell no. Can you demand for an artist to paint your portrait? A sculptural artist to create a unique object? Hell no to both. In this case, she bakes cakes, what is in her store, buy any cake there on the shelf, even a wedding cake. Ask her to bake one not baked already is another question, this is something in the future, she should be able to say no. Religion is irrelevant. You are like saying, if she dies tomorrow, she still has to bake the cake. If you asked a professional singer to sing either right now or at a FUTURE date, he can tell you to go hell and try. This is the reality that you are clueless. Pity

          Reply
          • Ron Lussier
            Ron Lussier says:

            You cannot decline to paint my house because I am Jewish. You cannot decline to architect my home because I am black. If I run a public portraiture studio, I cannot state that I will not paint your portrait because you are Christian. That’s just the law.

            (I’m not even going to address the issue of your dead bakers.)

  16. Rebecca Kell
    Rebecca Kell says:

    The law says that businesses can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. If a business is ok providing flowers to straight people marrying, but not gay people marrying, that’s a violation of the law. It’s really much simpler than you’re making it. The law says you can’t discriminate based on race. If a business is ok providing flowers to white people marrying, but not black people marrying, that’s a violation of the law. The laws regarding businesses in the public sphere have trumped people’s personal religious beliefs since the Civil Rights Act. This isn’t a new thing. If the florist can’t handle that, she needs to find a way to support herself that doesn’t conflict with her morals.

    Reply
    • daniwitz13
      daniwitz13 says:

      Rebecca. You are clueless too. Religion in her case is irrelevant. Anything Futuristic, can be refused. In her case, buy anything she has baked, it is there to buy. Ask her to do something in the Future, is another matter. See the above: A painter, architect, artist, etc, all can refuse. Let me also ask you a simple question? You do like it simple, right? If a Black Man (Race) came to our door, would you recognize him by his Race? Yes. Now I ask you, if a Homosexual came to your door, would you recognize him? I would say no. But if you are bias as you are, you would say yes, even if you couldn’t. If you say that it does not matter, then it does not matter if she refused. Pity

      Reply

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