DORI MONSON

Dori: Tri-Cities florist settles with gay couple over refusal to sell them wedding flowers

Nov 24, 2021, 1:31 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2021, 6:24 am
gay couple wedding flowers...
courtesy Arlene's Flowers

In a legal case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a flower shop owner in Richland, Washington, has finally settled with the ACLU — representing the same-sex couple for whom she refused to provide wedding flowers due to her Christian beliefs.

Barronelle Stutzman, 77, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, tells Dori Monson Show listeners that she wishes “the best” to Robert Ingersoll. In the settlement, Stutzman agreed to pay Ingersoll $5,000. According to her attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, the agreement allows Stutzman to “preserve her conscience” by not forcing her to act against her Southern Baptist faith.

After her previous 10-year business relationship selling flowers to Ingersoll, Dori told listeners, it was clear that she “had no problem with the fact that he was gay.” Providing flowers for the wedding, however, “was a fundamental violation of one of your deep-held beliefs – one line that she could not cross.”

Stutzman describes how the polarizing case started eight years ago, when Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the ACLU heard about the situation via Facebook and pulled it into the courts.

Through appeals, the Arlene’s Flowers case went to the state Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2018, the high court vacated the state’s ruling and sent it back for another review. In 2019, Washington’s Supreme Court ruled that the state courts did not act with animosity toward religion – and stood by its ruling that Stutzman broke anti-discrimination laws.

In another attempt to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a petition for review in 2019.

Ferguson “can spend millions of dollars because it’s just the taxpayers’ money,” Dori says, calling it frightening to “go up against someone who can outspend you 1,000 to 1.”

“It’s not about me,” Stutzman said. “It’s about each and every one of us. … They want to make me an example so nobody else will take up the fight.”

If it hadn’t been for the Alliance Defending Freedom taking her case pro bono, she adds, “I don’t know what we would have done. … There is a cost for our freedoms, but there is a greater cost if we don’t stand up.”

With the settlement behind her, what’s ahead for Stutzman?

“I’m 77 now,” Stutzman said. “It’s time to retire and get back to normal — whatever normal is.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Tri-Cities florist settles with gay couple over refusal to sell them wedding flowers