Saturday, December 31, 2016

Washington AG statement on Barronelle Stutzman

Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is a true believer. He is wed to the simple notion that Washington's nondiscrimination ordinance should be properly enforced. This law did not materialize out of thin air. It started as a measure that was passed by the elected representatives of the citizens. It was then signed into law by the elected governor of the state.

Ferguson's monthly newsletter, received last night, covers a number of matters that his office is handling. Among those is the case of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts. The AG explains:
Fighting discrimination before the state Supreme Court

I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I had another opportunity to uphold our anti-discrimination laws recently, this time before the Washington State Supreme Court.

My office filed the lawsuit in 2013 against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner and operator, Barronelle Stutzman, for discrimination over the refusal to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers, a service she and her business provided to opposite-sex couples.

Last year, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that Stutzman’s actions violated the state Consumer Protection Act. Before I filed our lawsuit, I sent a letter to Ms. Stutzman asking her to agree to stop discriminating, in which case my office would not seek fines or penalties. Ms. Stutzman declined that offer. She lost the ensuing lawsuit and pursued an appeal, which the Supreme Court heard in November.

Washington law is clear: Businesses cannot discriminate. If you serve opposite-sex partners, you must serve same-sex partners equally.
Remember this the next time Alliance Defending Freedom claims that Stutzman could lose her home “for just trying to live out her faith.” Based on court documents it appears that Stutzman was eager to demonstrate her disapproval of same-sex marriage to the first gay couple attempting to buy wedding flowers. Given the opportunity to walk away from the matter whole, she was determined to fight on for the right to discriminate.

Now some might say that Stutzman was victimized by ADF. Wedding vendors were probably trolled by ADF once Washington passed marriage equality in late 2012. Stutzman almost certainly forwarded Ferguson's letter to ADF and they encouraged her to reject Ferguson's offer. ADF knows that the case law is not in their favor even as it affected other ADF clients.

Nevertheless, Stutzman is accountable to, and responsible for, the decisions that she has made. She discriminated; she declined revenues for a business she owns; she chose to be represented by a law firm with an agenda separate from the best interests of clients; she chose to follow ADF's advice and she seems to be interested in her 15 minutes of fame. I have no sympathy for this woman. The fact that she is in her 70s only means that she is a bigoted senior citizen. ADF and Stutzman are both immoral.

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