Monday, May 20, 2013

Family Policy Institute of Washington creates 'Team Arlene' - a celebration of discrimination

An attempt to remain relevant after losing the battle in opposition to marriage equality.

Barronelle Stutzman
Lionizing Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers, for refusing to provide services to a same-sex wedding, seems like a silly misadventure on the part of Family Policy Institute of Washington. Aside from flouting Washington's anti-discrimination law, Stutzman would be at a loss to explain how selling and arranging flowers is offensive to her Christian faith. There seems to be a bright line and it is at the border of clergy actually solemnizing a marriage that is inconsistent with their religion.

Ms. Stutzman is an easy target for our opprobrium. However, she is simply someone who is probably not terribly bright and she is being used. Her views were likely shaped, at least in part, by the hyperbole employed by right wing political Christians opposing marriage equality. That would include Family Policy Institute of Washington. The organization is led by Joesph Backholm who has a law degree but is not licensed to practice law. Backholm is a preacher's kid.

Ken Hutcherson - "Tackling Dummy"
In addition to FPIW, there are other voices in Washington that are considerably more strident. These include the "Tackling Dummy," Pastor Ken Hutcherson who is a cartoonish caricature of anti-gay offensiveness. Did Ms. Stutzman OD on Hutch? who knows? By the way, I notice that he is going by a phony "Dr." Hutcherson lately.

FPIW defends Stutzman by over-emphasizing the arranging of flowers as artistry in contrast to selling flowers:
Artistic expression is a constitutionally recognized and protected form of speech. In the same way that your right to speak is protected by the First Amendment, so is your right not to speak. In this case, Arlene’s Flowers is simply choosing not to speak in this venue.
Stutzman's lawyers, led by ADF, do the same thing in their countersuit brief [PDF]:
Ms. Stutzman did not refuse to sell Mr. Ingersoll flowers. Ms. Stutzman informed Robert Ingersoll that her religious convictions precluded her from designing and creating floral arrangement to decorate a same-sex wedding.
They go on to portray her as an artist in contrast to a retailer. By the way, her local attorney of record, JD Bristol, is a graduate of that prestigious institution, Regent University School of Law. I guess it beats Liberty Law.

Will it fly? I doubt it. My guess is that this is going to make its way through the courts for a very long period of time. In their letter to Stutzman, the ACLU stated their case a tad differently. Moreover, someone is a liar:
You told Mr. Ingersoll that you would not sell flowers for his and Mr. Freed’s wedding because of your religious beliefs. We respect your beliefs and your right to religious freedom. However, we live in a di verse country, and religious beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, may not be used to justify discrimination in the public spheres of commerce and governance. Instances of institutions and individuals claiming a right to discriminate in the name of religion are not new. Religious beliefs have been invoked to justify denying women the right to vote; to prohibit men and women of different races from getting married; and to support segregation in schools, businesses, and other public places. Just as courts have held that those forms of discrimination are not permitted, even on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs, so is discrimination based on sexual orientation unlawful.
The coda is likely to be a decrease in business for Arlene's in blue state Washington. Taxpayers will be footing much of the legal bill for court costs in Stutzman's suit against the state. As for ADF, they will be cynically fundraising on this matter. What? You think that they really give a rat's ass about Stutzman?
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