A Washington grandmother and florist of 40 years who refused to service gay weddings because of her faith will now be forced to arrange flowers for gay ceremonies, a judge ruled Wednesday. On top of that, the woman, Barronelle Stutzman, will have to pay the legal penalties imposed by the judge as well as attorney’s fees.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled in a summary judgement that Stutzman violated anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws.
Ekstrom ruled that the gay couple could collect penalties not just from her business, but also from her personally, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group that represented Stutzman. That means she could lose her personal possessions and savings.
Stutzman refused to serve a gay couple in 2013 when they asked her to arrange flowers for their wedding ceremony. The ACLU represented the couple and took her to court.
“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage,” ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued before the court in December, said in a statement. “The two men had no problem getting the flowers they wanted. They received several offers for free flowers, and the marketplace gives them plenty of options. Laws that are supposed to prohibit discrimination might sound good, but the government has begun to use these laws to hurt people – to force them to conform and to silence and punish them if they don’t violate their religious beliefs on marriage.”
ADF will appeal.
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