Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 1, 2013, 1:45pm

PROSSER, Wash. (Legal Newsline) -- Last week, a Washington state judge heard oral arguments in a case against a florist who allegedly violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by discriminating against a customer on the basis of his sexual orientation.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Sal Mendoza listened to arguments in both Washington v. Arlene's Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene's Flowers Friday.

Janelle Guthrie, communications director for Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said in an email late Friday that Mendoza consolidated the two cases for discovery.

The judge, Guthrie said, also announced he would rule on the motions sometime next week.

Ferguson filed his lawsuit against the Richland-based Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in April.

The attorney general alleges that Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's, refused to provide wedding flowers to long-time customer Robert Ingersoll based on Stutzman's opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ferguson's office sent a letter to Stutzman on March 28 requesting she reconsider her position and sign an agreement to comply with state laws.

Stutzman, who says she has no problem with homosexual customers but won't support gay weddings because of her religious beliefs, is challenging the state's action to enforce the law.

"As attorney general, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington," Ferguson said in April.

"Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. 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."

The attorney general's lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction requiring Arlene's to comply with the state's consumer protection laws and $2,000 in fines for each violation of the law.

The ACLU also sued Stutzman on behalf of Ingersoll and his partner.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious freedom group, countersued the state on behalf of Stutzman.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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