Olympia, Wash., Jun 3, 2015 / 23:24 pm
A florist has appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court to review court rulings that could cause her financial ruin because she declined to serve a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said Stutzman and others have been "more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages."
"No one should be faced with a choice between their freedom of speech and conscience on one hand and personal and professional ruin on the other."
The appeal involves Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash.
"For me, it's never about the person who walks into the shop, but about the message I'm communicating when someone asks me to 'say it with flowers'," Stutzman said June 1. "We should all have artistic freedom and the right to disagree without one side of a conversation being threatened by the government."
Due to her religious beliefs, Stutzman declined to make floral arrangements for the same-sex wedding of one of her long-time customers, Robert Ingersoll. Instead, she referred him to other businesses.
The State of Washington filed a lawsuit in response, as did Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed.
The lawsuits charged that Stutzman violated state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, and a lower court agreed.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and others on Monday filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on Stutzman's behalf.
The legal brief said the lower court's decision "held that the state may force Barronelle to choose between engaging in compelled expression celebrating an event that violates her religious faith or foregoing the wedding design work she has loved for forty years."
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel at the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, said June 1 that the two lawsuits could "financially devastate" Stutzman's business and personal assets. The threat includes "taking this 70-year old grandmother's retirement and personal savings – simply for acting in accordance with her faith."
Without further court action, Stutzman must pay a presently undetermined amount of damages, attorney fees, and plaintiff costs once appeals are exhausted, according to her legal brief. She must also pay $1,000 in fines.
The courts have ruled she must also agree to create floral arrangements for same-sex ceremonies and provide full wedding support if she continues to provide floral arrangements for wedding ceremonies between people of the opposite sex.
The Alliance Defending Freedom brief said that the court ruling against Stutzman misconstrued Washington's anti-discrimination law and impairs her state and federal constitutional rights.