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Richland floral shop owner wants U.S. Supreme Court to review discrimination ruling

UPDATED: Fri., July 14, 2017, 11:10 p.m.

In this June 28, 2013, photo, Barronelle Stutzman leaves Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick, Wash. (Kai-Huei Yau / Associated Press)
In this June 28, 2013, photo, Barronelle Stutzman leaves Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick, Wash. (Kai-Huei Yau / Associated Press)

Barronelle Stutzman is taking the discrimination case against her Richland flower shop to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, Stutzman’s lawyers filed a petition with the nation’s highest court, asking the justices to review the February decision by the Washington state Supreme Court.

When Stutzman lost her appeal at the state level, the 72-year-old grandmother said everything she has worked for and believes in couldn’t be destroyed and vowed to take her fight to Washington, D.C.

The state Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that the owner of Arlene’s Flowers violated Washington’s anti-discrimination law and the Consumer Protection Act by declining to provide services based on sexual orientation.

It affirmed the 2015 ruling by Judge Alex Ekstrom in Benton County Superior Court.

Stutzman had refused to make arrangements for a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding in 2013.

A Southern Baptist, she’s said she declined her services not because of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed’s sexual orientation, but because of her religious views on marriage. She argued that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment.

Stutzman and her corporation were sued by both the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the couple, and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The shop owner is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and George Ahrend of Ephrata.

In the February opinion, Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud said the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

That law may be enforced against the shop owner because it does not infringe any constitutional protection, she wrote.

Friday, Stutzman’s attorneys said the U.S. Supreme Court should reverse that decision because no creative professional should be forced to participate in events with which they disagree.

“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel, said in a prepared statement.

“The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business,” she added. “Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”

Stutzman has said the civil cases could end up costing her the business, her life savings and retirement funds, and her family home.

Alliance Defending Freedom is also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consolidate the Arlene’s Flowers case with one that the high court accepted in late June. That case of a Colorado baker , who refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding reception, also is being handled by Alliance Defending Freedom.


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