ICC Note: Small business owners of faith across the United States are facing unprecedented levels of pressure to leave their religious beliefs on the issue of homosexuality behind in the operation of their business. Baronelle Stutzman, a florist of more than 40 years in Washington state, is being sued both personally and as a business by the states prosecutor general for violation of the states non-discrimination law after she refused to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Her attorney says she may lose not only her business, but her personal assets as well.
12/11/2014 United States (Christian Post) – A lawsuit is moving forward against a Washington State florist who refused to supply floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony based on her religious objection, which could put her at risk of serious financial loss and the loss of her business.
Baronelle Stutzman, who owns and operates Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, is being sued by the Washington State attorney general’s office for refusing to supply flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony. Instead, she referred the couple to another nearby florist who could supply flowers for their wedding.
The attorney general’s office filed its lawsuit against Stutzman in 2013, and after the judge who was presiding over the case joined the federal bench, another judge has been appointed to the case and began hearing arguments on the case last week. Judge Alex Ekstrom is expected to set the start of the trial for sometime in the Spring.
“Plenty of florists are willing to provide flowers for same-sex ceremonies, yet the state attorney general insists on going after not only her business, but her personal assets as well,” ADF senior counsel Kristen Waggoner said in a press release. “It’s nothing more than a blatant attempt to strong arm Barronelle into surrendering her freedom and livelihood.”
Refusing to provide services for same-sex wedding ceremonies has cost many private business owners their business, as well as a great deal of financial grief in recent years.
In August, a Christian family was fined $13,000 by the state of New York for refusing to host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their farmhouse wedding venue because they felt it violated their religious beliefs.
In November, a California couple who ran a wedding photography business, announced that they will no longer provide wedding photography service after gay activists protested against the business when a gay man posted to Facebook about how the couple declined to shoot his wedding ceremony because of their beliefs.