OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a florist that allegedly violated the Consumer Protection Act by discriminating against a customer on the basis of sexual orientation.
The lawsuit against the Richland-based Arlene's Flowers and Gifts alleges that Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers, 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's attorneys responded on Monday and said Stutzman would challenge any state action to enforce the law.
"As attorney general, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington," Ferguson said. "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."
Ferguson filed the complaint in Benton County Superior Court on Tuesday. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction requiring Arlene's Flowers to comply with Washington's consumer protection laws and $2,000 in fines for each violation of the law.