OLYMPIA – Attorney General Bob Ferguson late last night filed a brief with the Washington State Supreme Court urging the justices to uphold a Benton County Superior Court decision ordering a Richland florist to stop discriminating against gay and lesbian customers seeking flowers for their weddings.
In a February 18, 2015 ruling, the Superior Court 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.
“As the Superior 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,” Ferguson said. “My office will not stand for discrimination, and I am confident that the Supreme Court will agree.”
On March 27, 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. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov