(The New York Daily News)- Flowers may not discriminate, but people are another matter.
The American Civil Liberties Union joined the state of Washington by filing its own lawsuit on Thursday against Arlene’s Flowers and its proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, over the woman’s refusal to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.
On March 1, Robert Ingersoll entered the shop in Richland, a small town approximately 200 miles from Seattle, where he had been buying flowers for years. When he informed Stutzman he was getting married to his boyfriend, Curt Freed, the store owner stopped him cold.
“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’" Stutzman told KEPRTV News.
Gay marriage was made legal by the voters of Washington in the 2012 election, but protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation have been established in the state since 2006. As a result, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit last week against Arlene’s Flowers.
The ACLU then filed a civil suit after Stutzman ignored its demand that she apologize to the couple, donate $5,000 to a youth center affiliated with the gay community, and agree to sell flowers regardless of the sexual orientation of her customers.
“Because she refused to sell flowers to Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed for their wedding,” the ACLU’s website states, “defendant Barronelle Stutzman aided Arlene’s Flowers in violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination by discriminating against the Plaintiffs on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
On the Facebook page for Arlene’s Flowers, where thousands of comments have been left since the story became national news, Stutzman held firm in her conviction that she could deny service to the couple based on her religious views.
“I believe, biblically, that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is my conviction, yours may be different," Stutzman wrote on the Facebook page for Arlene’s.
"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.
Filed in Benton County Superior Court, the ACLU suit seeks a court order barring her from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation as well as unspecified damages.
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