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$85,000 raised for Washington florist who refused gay couple

RICHLAND – A florist in Washington fined $1,000 for refusing to sell a same-sex couple wedding flowers and also facing a consumer-protection lawsuit filed by the state has netted more than $85,000 in a crowdfunding campaign.

The Seattle Times reported that nearly half of the money on the Gofundme.com page set up in late February for Barronelle Stutzman, 70, came in the past several days.

The Washington state law, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said, “clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples.”

Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, was fined $1,000 in Benton County Superior Court in March after refusing to serve a same-sex couple in 2013. That’s a violation of the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, the court ruled.

The court’s ruling also requires Stutzman’s shop to make available to same-sex couples everything the shop sells to opposite-sex couples.

But Stutzman said same-sex weddings go against her Southern Baptist beliefs. After she declined to agree to no longer discriminate, Ferguson said, his office filed the consumer-protection lawsuit.

“It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman wrote Ferguson on Feb. 20, two days after the court ruling, in a letter obtained by the Seattle newspaper. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

A message left at Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts on Sunday by the Associated Press wasn’t returned.

A note on the Gofundme site for Stutzman said the site was set up by a friend of Stutzman’s who works for a legal organization, and that donated money is intended for potential legal bills. More than 2,000 people had made donations by Sunday, the website said.

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