SEATTLE — A Richland florist who was ordered to stop discriminating against gay and lesbian customers seeking flowers for their weddings has filed her response brief before the Washington State Supreme Court.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the following statement regarding this latest brief:
“The defendants are offering essentially the same arguments that failed at the Superior Court. That court recognized it is illegal in Washington for a business to offer services to opposite-sex couples yet refuse those same services to same-sex partners. My office will continue to stand against discrimination. I’m confident the Supreme Court will agree that Washington law does not allow it.”
In a Feb. 18, 2015 ruling, a Benton County Superior Court judge found that Arlene’s Flowers, and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, violated the state Consumer Protection Act by refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding.
Stutzman and her company appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and this recent filing responds to the State of Washington’s briefing filed in December.
On March 27, 2015 the Superior Court permanently enjoined the defendants from discriminating against any person because of his or her sexual orientation. The court also imposed a $1,000 penalty and ordered the defendants to pay the Attorney General’s Office $1 in costs and attorney fees, the amount the Attorney General requested.
In April 2013, the Attorney General’s Office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers and Stutzman for refusing to provide flowers to customer Robert Ingersoll for his wedding to his husband, Curt Freed.
Before filing the lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to Stutzman asking her to comply with Washington law, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Had she agreed to no longer discriminate, the Attorney General’s Office would not have filed suit, and Stutzman would not have paid any costs, fees or penalties.
The Supreme Court has not yet ruled whether it will hear the case or send the appeal to the intermediate Court of Appeals. That decision is expected in the next few months.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov