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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wash. AG wins right to sue florist who refused same-sex couple

By Mark Payne | Jan 9, 2015

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson | Washington Attorney General's Office

A Benton County Superior Court judge recently upheld a decision that allowed Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to file a suit against a shop owner who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. 

Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled on Wednesday that the attorney general has the authority to sue Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, for violating the state's consumer protection laws.

Ferguson's office sued Stutzman in 2013 after she refused to sell flowers to Robert Ingersoll who was planning his wedding to his now-husband, Curt Freed. Stutzman allegedly refused to serve Ingersoll based on her opposition to same-sex marriage.

“It’s no accident that Judge Ekstrom’s ruling so closely mirrors our arguments, and we look forward to the decision on the remaining motions,” Ferguson said. “We believe Washington law is very clear that businesses in Washington cannot discriminate. If you serve opposite-sex partners, you must serve same-sex partners equally.”

Before filing the suit, Ferguson sent a letter to Stutzman saying she would have to comply with Washington law, which states businesses can’t discriminate on sexual orientation. Stutzman's lawyers responded that they would challenge any actions by the state against Stutzman.

“As admitted by Stutzman, she not only participated in the conduct alleged, her own personal actions (in defining corporate policy and in her interaction with Ingersoll) constitute the sum total of the conduct complained of by the plaintiffs,” Ekstrom wrote.

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