Court Puts Objecting Florist’s House, Personal Property at Risk for Seizure

Barronelle Stutzman may be held personally liable for millions of dollars merely for refusing to provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex marriage.

By Rachel Alexander Published on February 16, 2017

The Washington State Supreme Court today unanimously upheld a judgment against a florist who declined to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex marriage. She had previously provided the gay couple flowers for other occasions, but told them she couldn’t supply flowers for their “wedding,” because same-sex marriage was incompatible with her Christian beliefs.

The court held that the government can force individuals to provide artistic works and participate in events they disagree with. The nine justices claimed that Barronelle Stutzman violated anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. The court found her personally accountable, meaning the state can seize her home, personal property, savings and bank accounts to pay any damages fines or attorneys fees awarded against her.

The Court Says: No Violation of Her Rights

A Southern Baptist, Stutzman lives in Richland, one of the most conservative areas in Washington state. She has been in the florist business for 30 years, having started out delivering flowers in her mother’s business. She now owns Arlene’s Flowers.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the gay couple sued her in 2013. Ferguson has been making a name for himself aggressively pursuing a liberal activist agenda as attorney general, with aspirations for higher office.

In 2016, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom fined Stutzman and awarded attorney’s fees against her. Stutzman appealed the lower court’s decision to the state’s highest court.

The Washington State Supreme Court found forcing her to provide flowers for a gay wedding did not violate her constitutional rights. She provided services for people of other religions, the judges argued, and had no grounds for refusing service to anyone else. “As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism,” the opinion said.

However, Stutzman was not objecting on the grounds that her services would constitute an endorsement of another religion. She was objecting on the grounds that doing that would condone and aid something against her religion, thus violating her freedom of religion.

She also objected on the grounds of free speech, not just freedom of religion. The court rejected her claim that its interpretation of Washington’s anti-discrimination law violates her right free speech.

A Case About Crushing Dissent

Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom which is representing Stutzman, denounced the decision. “This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” she said. The ADF issued a press release explaining how the activist ACLU operates to force through these types of cases.

I will mention that the ACLU raised $24 million in a single weekend recently. And this is what is does with its treasure: file suit against a humble grandmother who was literally minding her own business on the day when she referred a long time customer (who she served dozens of times fully aware that he is gay) to nearby florists who would be willing to celebrate same-sex weddings. While ADF is providing, as we do for all of our clients, free legal representation, the ACLU can and will come after her for legal fees that may top out north of a million dollars.

The organization said the decision marked “a decisive blow against fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.”

ADF intends to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case in 2014 involving a photographer who refused to service a same-sex wedding.

A page has been set up to help Stutzman. An effort is being made to encourage President Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious freedom. Others are talking about raising funds for her.

Stutzman says this isn’t about herself, but about the bigger picture of protecting the Constitution. She warned in an op-ed in The Spokesman-Review (in Spokane), “Does anyone really believe that a government that gives itself the power to force people to believe (and not believe) things and can order artists to create state-sanctioned messages will only use that power to bend one small-town florist to its will — and then leave everyone else alone?”

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • Charles Burge

    I think the activists have overplayed their hand on this one. Hopefully a rising public backlash will put an end to this kind of bullying.

    • Paul

      At this point I think you’re being optimistic. Wish I was wrong, but the media is fully in bed with the sexual deviants and atheists. Maybe Trump could change the awareness level but he’s been wishy washy on the topic of sexual deviants thus far.

  • Gary

    The Washington law violates the 13th Amendment prohibition of involuntary servitude. The law cannot force you to work for someone against your will. That is slavery.

    • Tom Rath

      It’s not forced, because nobody can force anyone to be or remain in business.

      When she made the voluntary decision to become a florist and a provider of goods and services in the marketplace of the public square, she agreed to abide by the rules and regulations thereof. She had to get a license. She had to get building, health, pest inspections. She also had to abide by any/all standing laws related to public accommodation. She couldn’t refuse service to a couple because of their race(s). She couldn’t refuse service to couples because of their faith(s). She couldn’t refuse service to couples because of their country(ies) or origin.

      If she had a religious objection to serving any of the above, she could either fulfill her obligation as a public accommodation or find another business in which she wouldn’t have such a conflict.

      The same applied after sexual orientation was added as a protected class to the statutes which applied to her business.

      Nobody could force her to remain in business. But they can require her to follow the law if she CHOOSES to do so.

      • Gary

        The 13th Amendment offers no exemptions from the amendment just because you have a license from the government for the particular business you are in. Being forced to work for someone against your will violates the Constitution. Plain and simple.

        • Tom Rath

          And it’s not ‘forced’, as I explained. Plainer and simpler.

          • Gary

            You are wrong. It is force. The whole purpose of the anti-discrimination law is to force people into business transactions they don’t want. If they wanted to do business, there would be no perceived need for such a law.

          • Tom Rath

            Well, they (et al) will certainly have the chance to make that assertion in their petition (and supporting briefs) to the Supreme Court of the United States, just as the New Mexico photographer did by petitioning the Court in 2013 under similar circumstances. (SCOTUS declined to review that case in April 2014, see Elane v. Willock)

          • Gary

            I have learned, through bitter experience, that the courts cannot be trusted to abide by the Constitution.

      • James Doyle

        If it wasn’t Poofters who sued her the same Poofs would have gone from business to business until they do get someone to sue. Shower of Reprobates.

  • azsxdcf1

    Behavior manifestation ought NOT constitute a protected “CLASS.” This florist is NOT showing prejudice against someone who is born with black skin, or a handicapped body, or is born female… but is stating that she cannot work with people who perform perverse and unnatural sexual acts which the core of her person disdain.

    Let’s not allow our vocabulary to accept the word “gay” (like I suspect some judges have) morph into meaning something other than describing a person who performs sodomy and/or other acts which are not natural. not edifying and not legal for most of mankind’s history.

    I pray the florist wins her law suit… for the welfare of ALL the people.

  • O’Pinyon

    Ultimately, marriage law must reflect the Creator’s values if it is to truly protect children.
    No one who thinks deeply about the interests of children will go along with this strong, but polluted, stream of American culture.

  • Triple T

    So if she had provided these people flowers for other occasions as the article states, why couldn’t she just continue in that capacity and tell them “They’re your flowers. Do whatever you want with them after our transaction is complete”, you may ask?
    Because that’s not good enough for these “equality” types. Nothing short of beating everybody else into complete submission and compliance with their agenda is good enough. Nothing short of the destruction of anyone who refuses to comply is good enough. If you think even the slightest thing differently from these people, you’re an intolerant “bigot” who has no place in civilized society.

  • Jim Walker

    All these ugliness of the new laws favoring LGBTQ are on display when US legalize same-sex marriage.
    Once you open the Pandora’s Box, all hell breaks loose. There is a reason why God made the laws for his creation to follow.

  • Gary

    I believe Stutzman made a series of mistakes: She had homosexual employees, she had a history of doing business with known homosexuals, she knew, or should have known, the laws and political atmosphere in the state of Washington which would have informed her that she would not get away with it there. I think she should have come up with a way to decline the business she didn’t want. And after that, she should have sold out and moved out of Washington. If she had done that, she would not be about to lose everything she has, and, she would have saved a lot of time fighting a battle she was never going to win.

    • Ray

      I know of no mistakes the Stutzman’s made. They lived their lives honorably, the way they saw fit, and are being sued for all they are worth for doing nothing wrong.

    • Gecks

      No, the life of a Christian is not running through loops to avoid the gay lobby. Risking our all is what Christ calls his church to do.

  • Brenda J. Gannam

    Hmmmm, let’s see: I run a pharmacy. A gay couple come in and buy hair gel, cough syrup, kleenex, and condoms. I tell them they can buy everything except the condoms because “gay sex is against my religion”. How would you respond?

    • Gary

      How would I respond if I were homosexual? Since I would never be homosexual, I wouldn’t respond at all. But, if you said “I don’t like Christians and I don’t want your business”, then I would say OK, walk out, and never return. I would not sue you. I would not report you to the police.

    • Triple T

      How do you know they aren’t buying those things for someone else?

    • Ray

      I believe there is no reason a store clerk would have to sell anything to someone if they tell the clerk they are going to use the product to do evil or harm to themselves or another. Would you sell some ammonia and bleach or some other items if the customer told you they were going to use it to make some illegal drugs, or a bomb or something? You would not have to. Wouldn’t you be wrong if you did?

    • Gecks

      Your scenario is a false equivalence. She sold to that gay couple multiple times in the past. The difference was when they asked her to make a special arrangement of flowers for their wedding. This is different than simply grabbing some flowers off the shelf and ringing them up. So a better equivalence in your scenario would be if the gay couple asked you to custom create them a special condom for their “activities.”

  • Gary

    There are lessons to be learned from this and we all should learn them.
    1. No matter what the US Constitution says, the courts will ignore it if it interferes with their agenda.
    2. Because of number 1., we all should try to stay out of the courts and the legal system if there is any other alternative.
    3. In areas that protect lgbtq from discrimination, you must be very careful how you shun lgbtq in order to avoid legal entanglements that you probably will lose.
    4. If you can, move to a state that does not protect lgbtq from discrimination. You will find such states more friendly to religious freedom, and freedom to be moral, and you will be less likely to be prosecuted for refusing unwanted associations with lgbtq.
    5. Ask God often to protect you from His enemies.

  • Josh Shapiro

    If she was fined a measly $1001, how is she at risk for losing “everything?”

    • Gary

      I think the court wants her to pay the lawyers for the other side.

    • Triple T

      The state’s Attorney General initially sued her for everything she owns. On a side note, it must be nice to be able to use the terms “measly” and “$1001” in the same sentence.

    • Ray

      There was a condition given to her by the court, that along with a fine, she would have lost all her freedom to serve her God as she sees fit, when it comes to certain requests from homosexuals, or anyone else for that matter, pertaining to floral arrangements for homosexual “weddings”. She chose instead to suffer the possible loss of everything. God bless her. May he restore her many times over, all that the thief has taken.

  • Patti Braulick Halfaker

    Whatever happened to “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?”

  • Ray

    Basically, this panel of snowflakes are saying that for everyone in Washington state…There is no God, and thus, there will be no accountability when we leave this world, for the things we have done with our own hands, be they good or bad, and the state is also saying that it’s illegal to have such notions or serve such ideas. Man evolved to serve the state, and that’s about it.

  • Ray

    People have talked for years about special rights, that the homosexual activists want, but it seems people don’t believe that. A man can go to an auto paint shop, and ask for a cheap spray job, telling them that he could do all the prep work himself, and that all he is looking for is an appearance of a consistent color and no visible runs from across a very wide street, and they can tell him, “Hey, we don’t do that kind of work. You will have to go somewhere else.”

  • Ray

    The court determined that people are the slaves of the state.

Inspiration
Your Purpose is Revealed in God’s Design and Desire for Creation
Hugh Whelchel
More from The Stream
Connect with Us