PROSSER, Wash. (Legal Newsline) -- A Washington florist who allegedly violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by discriminating against a customer on the basis of his sexual orientation has asked a state judge to dismiss Attorney General Bob Ferguson's lawsuit against her.
This week, Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Richland-based Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, asked a Benton County Superior Court judge to drop the attorney general's lawsuit, arguing Ferguson lacks the authority to bring the suit.
Stutzman further argues that the couple at the center of the case never complained directly to the Attorney General's Office, The Seattle Times reported Monday.
Ferguson filed his lawsuit against Arlene's in April.
The attorney general alleges that Stutzman 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 says she has no problem with homosexual customers but won't support gay weddings because of her religious beliefs.
"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.
The two cases have been consolidated.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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