Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently sued a Richland florist, Barronelle Stutzman, for alleged violations of state law authorizing same-sex “marriage,” but now he is finding himself a defendant for allegedly trying to violate the state and federal constitutions’ religious freedom provisions.
“The Washington State Constitution, in Article 1, Section 11, absolutely protects ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship’ and guarantees that ‘no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion,’” according to attorneys representing Stutzman.
The countersuit asks for a declaration that Ferguson’s actions are “unlawful” and to enjoin similar future actions, reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs and “such other relief that the court deems just and equitable.”
The countersuit was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys on behalf of Stutzman, whom they already were defending from the attorney general’s complaint.
Ferguson alleges that the state can force the florist to violate her Christian beliefs and provide her artistic talents for the benefit of a same-sex “wedding.”
Stutzman has served homosexual clientele with a wide range of floral products over many years, and also has employed those who portray themselves as homosexual, with no issue. But she decided she could not, without violating her faith, give the appearance of endorsing same-sex “marriage” by creating special services for such an event, according to legal documents in her case.
So the state attorney general sued her, claiming discrimination.
She sued right back, claiming constitutional violations.
“Everyone knows that plenty of florists are willing to assist in same-sex ceremonies, so the state has no reason to force Barronelle to violate her deeply held beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt.
“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions. Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs. It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”
ADF reports the Washington State Constitution uniquely protects the rights of conscience and religion, and the countersuit argues that Ferguson is “constitutionally precluded from compelling Stutzman to use her artistic skill to personally craft expressive floral arrangements” for a same-sex ceremony when it violates her religious beliefs and her conscience to do so, “particularly when there are many other florists willing, ready, and able to create floral arrangements” for such ceremonies.
The action on behalf of the 68-year-old florist, and her company, Arlene’s Flowers, was filed in Benton County Superior Court.
It says, “Barronelle has been creating floral arrangements for Robert Ingersoll [the homosexual who wanted "wedding" flowers] for nearly nine years. Barronelle enjoys the warm and cordial relationship that she has developed with Mr. Ingersoll…. Barronelle has known that Robert Ingersoll identifies himself as gay throughout most of their nine-year relationship. That fact never made any difference in the way Mr. Ingersoll was treated as a customer. Arlene’s Flowers routinely designs floral arrangements for other gay and lesbian clientele. Arlene’s Flowers has also had openly gay employees.”
The complaint notes that Ingersoll did not make a complaint about the florist, and Ferguson threatened the florist even though Ingersoll had gotten several offers from other florists to provide flower arrangements.