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Gay wedding - florist flap hits state legislature

Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide flowers for a long-time customer's gay wedding because she said it went against her religious beliefs. (AP Photo/File)

A handful of Republicans are coming to the defense of a Richland florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding and is now being sued by the ACLU and the state of Washington.

It comes in the form of a bill that would exempt business owners from the anti-discrimination law.

Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide flowers for a long-time customer's gay wedding because she said it went against her religious beliefs. "I said, 'I'm sorry I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,'" she told KEPR TV. "It's just a personal conviction. It's not a matter of you're right or you're wrong. It's just how I believe."

But Stutzman was sued by the ACLU and the State Attorney General's Office for violating anti-discrimination laws.

Now, a dozen Republican Senators are coming to her aid.

They are sponsoring a bill that would exempt business owners from anti-discrimination laws if they deny service because of their personal beliefs and convictions. Senate Bill 5927 would change the anti-discrimination law so it may not a burden a person to provide services that are contrary to one's sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs or matters of conscience.

KIRO Radio asked Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson about the balancing act between First Amendment protection for freedom of religion and anti-discrimination when this case came up two weeks ago.

"I think that's a dangerous path to go down," Ferguson said. "In this case, you might have listeners who might think, (on sexual discrimination) 'I should be OK not to provide those flowers.' But if that's the philosophy we have - that businesses can really serve whoever they want and there are no implications for not serving someone based on age, race, religion or sexual orientation - I think that's a very dangerous path."

This bill is likely nothing more than ceremonial, at best. It was introduced with just days left in the legislative session, and it likely won't get a hearing, considering all the other issues in front of it.

But it's possible it could be part of the discussion during a special session, if one is necessary, and it looks like one will be necessary.

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