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Linda Thomas
Flowers.JPG
The community of Richland mobilizes to support a florist who is dealing with two civil lawsuits after refusing to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding. (Linda Thomas photo)

Support for flower shop owner facing gay bouquet lawsuits

Richland, Washington is home to the Hanford nuclear site and the explosion set off earlier this year involving flowers.

"I grabbed his hand and said, I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,' then we hugged and that was it. The next thing I knew the whole thing exploded online," Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, said in an earlier interview.

Stutzman is being sued by the State of Washington and a gay couple for refusing to provide floral services to a same-sex wedding.

Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed did business with Arlene's many times over the past decade.

They asked her in March to provide flower arrangements for their September same-sex wedding. She refused based on her religious beliefs.

After the couple posted about the issue on Facebook, local media and eventually international news agencies picked up the story.

Ingersoll and Freed haven't talked publicly about the case, but their attorney said in a letter on their behalf the refusal of service is "a disturbing reminder of the history of discrimination and disparate treatment that they and other gay men and women have experienced over the years."

Yesterday, a Benton County judge struck down pretrial motions from both sides.

Defense attorney J.D. Bristol tells me he's prepared to take the case to trial.

When I talked with the woman at the center of the two civil suits, all she could say yesterday was that she's "peachy keen" as she prepares for a community meeting on her behalf Thursday night.

"Supporting anyone who's standing on their constitutional rights will always be a rallying point for me. We're rallying behind her," says Rep. Brad Klippert. "The people in my legislative district strongly support marriage between one man and one woman."

In the 8th state legislative district, which includes Richland, Washington's same-sex marriage referendum was "defeated soundly" with a 63 percent 'no' vote against the 2012 measure in Benton County.

In neighboring Grant County, 68 percent rejected it along with 71 percent in Adams County. Overall, it was approved in Washington 53 percent of the vote.

Klippert is part of "Team Arlene's" which is starting a public information campaign on her behalf that includes sending emails and calling the Attorney General's office and even praying for the Richland businesswoman as the legal action against her proceeds.

The state contends Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding violates the couple's civil rights and Washington's freedom from discrimination law.

Revised Code of Washington 49.60.030 stipulates that state citizens have the "right to engage in credit transactions without discrimination."

The bigger issue isn't civil rights, Klippert says, it's Stuzman's U.S. Constitutional rights.

"Barronell Stutzman should be able to stand on her First Amendment rights of Freedom of Religion and her expression thereof and her Freedom of Speech," he says.

By LINDA THOMAS

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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