$1,000 penalty; $1 for costs and fees per Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request
SEATTLE — A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled today that a Richland florist will pay a $1,000 penalty and $1 in costs and fees to the state for discriminating against a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers in 2013.
The ruling also permanently enjoins Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, from violating the Consumer Protection Act by discriminating against any person because of his or her sexual orientation. This includes the requirement that all goods, merchandise and services Arlene’s Flowers and Stutzman offers or sells to opposite sex couples must be offered or sold on the same terms to same-sex couples.
“My primary goal has always been to end illegal discrimination,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “I’m pleased that today’s ruling clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples. Our state laws protect the rights of Washingtonians to be treated equally — regardless of our race, sex, creed, sexual orientation or other characteristics — and I will continue to vigorously uphold these laws.”
The Attorney General’s Office asked the court for the penalty under the state Consumer Protection Act and $1 for costs and fees.
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.
On Feb. 18, 2015, the court granted the state’s motion for summary judgment, ruling the defendants had violated the Consumer Protection Act.
Before filing the lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office had 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 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