Home July 2015 Washington high court asked to take up case of Richland florist

Washington high court asked to take up case of Richland florist

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have asked the Washington Supreme Court to take up the case of a Richland florist sued by both the state and American Civil Liberties Union for what both said was unlawful discrimination, while the florist said she was simply acting consistently with her faith.
ADF filed notices of appeal in April on behalf of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, after a lower state court ruled that she must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a longtime customer’s same-sex ceremony. Rather than participate in the ceremony, Stutzman referred the customer, whom she considers a friend and had served for nearly 10 years, to several other florists in the area who she said would provide high-quality arrangements and wedding support.
In March, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom issued a decree ordering Stutzman to pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the state and $1 in attorneys’ fees. The court has yet to impose an award for the gay couple; Ekstrom postponed awarding damages to them until after a ruling on Stutzman’s appeal.
“Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to create expression against their will,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner. “Barronelle and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages. No one should be faced with a choice between their freedom of speech and conscience on one hand and personal and professional ruin on the other.”
“People in creative professions regularly have to make decisions about where they lend their artistic talents and the events in which they will participate,” Stutzman said. “For me, it’s never about the person who walks into the shop, but about the message I’m communicating when someone asks me to ‘say it with flowers.’ We should all have artistic freedom and the right to disagree without one side of a conversation being threatened by the government.”
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco noted that the two lawsuits have the potential “to financially devastate Barronelle’s business and personal assets — including taking this 70-year old grandmother’s retirement and personal savings — simply for acting in accordance with her faith.
“We hope the Washington Supreme Court will review this case not only because of the important legal and constitutional implications, but also because of the devastating impact the lower court’s ruling has on Barronelle.”