RICHLAND — A florist targeted by two lawsuits for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding has filed her own lawsuit against Washington state, claiming the state is violating her religious beliefs.
The lawsuits stem from an incident in March when Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers refused to provide flowers for a long-time client because she said same-sex marriage was against her personal beliefs.
Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry, filed suit on behalf of Stutzman Thursday in Benton County Superior Court, the Tri-City Herald reported.
“Everyone knows that plenty of florists are willing to assist in same-sex ceremonies, so the state has no reason to force Barronelle to violate her deeply held beliefs,” Senior Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt said in a statement.
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state filed suit against Stutzman, 68, on behalf of the Kennewick gay couple denied service.
Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed were longtime patrons of the flower shop.
That lawsuit seeks a court order barring her from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation and damages for violation of the couple’s rights as well as unspecified damages.
Under state law, it’s illegal for businesses to refuse to sell goods, merchandise and services to any person because of their sexual orientation.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also has filed a consumer protection lawsuit.
Washington voters legalized gay marriage in November. However, protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation were codified in 2006 in one of the first pushes to expand civil rights to the gay community.
Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com