State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts, a Richland florist that refused to supply flowers to the same-sex marriage of a longtime customer.Why might this shape up to be an interesting test case? Here's my completely inexpert opinion:
Ferguson said he sent a March 28 letter to owner Barronelle Stutzman asking her to reconsider and supply flowers to customer Robert Ingersoll. Through an attorney, Stutzman declined to change her position.
“As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington,” said Ferguson. “Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation. If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same sex couples the same product or service.” [...]
An employee at Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts said late Tuesday that Stutzman was not present, adding: “None of us will have any comment.” Last month, Stutzman told KEPR-TV in the Tri-Cities:
“He (Ingersoll) said he decided to get married and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.’ We hugged each other and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story.”
Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, were decade-long customers of Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts. They went online with the refusal and the story went viral. Stutzman refused to change her position, saying: “It’s a personal conviction. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong. It’s my belief.”
1. In this case the state Attorney General is the one suing the florist, not the same-sex couple. The Washington State AG apparently thinks it's his job to force people to support gay "marriage" in public even if they disagree in private. But that pretty much makes a mockery of any notion of religious liberty, or even of the right of businesses to refuse service to customers for any reason at all, a right that businesses take seriously.
2. The men in question had been customers of this florist, and she hadn't had any problem selling them flowers for other occasions, so the state's claim that she's discriminating based on sexual orientation can only be understood as a state requirement that business owners must keep their disagreement with same-sex "marriage" to themselves. In other words, it's pretty clear that the florist didn't refuse to sell flowers to these gay customers just for being gay. But she told them it would violate her religious beliefs to provide flowers for their wedding--and if her faith is against same-sex "marriage" or teaches that it is a pernicious and diabolical lie to call two men or two women "married," how can the state force her to violate her religious beliefs to provide flowers for such an occasion?
3. Perhaps more troubling is the AG's insistence that if you provide a service for heterosexual customers, you must provide the same or similar service for same-sex customers or risk a lawsuit for illegal discrimination. What if a florist didn't want to provide floral decorations for a convention run by the North American Man-Boy Love Association? Would the fact that he or she provided floral arrangements for other voluntary associations automatically mean that only illegal discrimination would keep him or her from wanting his/her flower shop to do business with NAMBLA?
This case is definitely one to watch, and once again, it puts the lie to the often-repeated claim by gay "marriage" activists that gay "marriage" isn't going to interfere with anybody else's rights. The truth is that you can either have same-sex marriage or religious freedom, but you can't have both. Right now, only one of those two principles is mentioned in the Constitution, but I have no doubt that gay "marriage" activists would be fine with jettisoning the very notion of religious liberty, one of the principles on which our nation was founded, in the pursuit of their goals--because they see any religious teaching about the perverse sinfulness of homosexual acts as nothing more than bigotry, and they are not at all disinclined to use the power of the state to crush all opposition to their way of life. And if religious liberty is a casualty of their war to redefine marriage, they really don't care.