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A Richland florist being sued by Washington's attorney general for refusing to sell flowers for a gay wedding is suing back.(AP image)

Richland florist sued by state for refusing gay wedding sues back

A Richland florist being sued by Washington's attorney general for refusing to sell flowers for a gay wedding is suing back.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit last month against Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene's Flowers and Gifts after she told a longtime customer she couldn't provide flowers for the wedding because of her religious beliefs.

"She's just trying to live out her faith," said attorney Dale Schowengerdt in an interview with KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show.

Ferguson claims the florist is discriminating against a protected class and is seeking a court order requiring Stutzman to comply with consumer protection laws. The suit is seeking at least $2,000 in fines.

But Schowengerdt says the state constitution protects her religious freedom, and just because she's in business doesn't mean she gives up that right.

"Providing flowers for him wasn't the issue. It was participating in and facilitating a same sex wedding, which she has strong religious convictions about," he said.

According to Schowengerdt, his client is being unfairly targeted. Ferguson hadn't received any complaints and only took action after learning of a Facebook post where she said she couldn't provide the flowers "because of my relationship with Jesus Christ."

"The state has to prove a compelling interest in the least restrictive means possible," he said. "There are numerous florists ready willing and able to provide this service. This couple getting flowers for their wedding is not an issue."

Monson agrees.

"I don't see how the state thought they could go after your client here," he said.

Monson cited the state constitution, which states:

"Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief in worship shall be guaranteed to every individual and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion."

Stutzman has received hate mail and threats and just wants to live her life and her faith, Schowengerdt said.

"It really is a targeting of religious speech and the motivations are unclear, but it certainly is unprecedented."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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