Washington Florist Sued For Refusing to Provide Flowers For Same-Sex Wedding

Florist said religious beliefs kept her from servicing gay wedding.

ByABC News
April 10, 2013, 9:49 AM

April 10, 2013— -- A florist who reportedly refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding because of her religious beliefs is being sued by the Washington State Attorney General.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Benton County, came almost two weeks after Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he sent a letter to Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., asking her to reconsider her decision.

Stutzman is accused of violating the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a public place.

When ABCNews.com reached Stuztman at her flower shop today, she declined to comment on the lawsuit.

On March 1, Robert Ingersoll, a longtime customer, visited the shop and told Stutzman he wanted to order flowers for his upcoming wedding, according to the complaint.

Stutzman told Ingersoll she was unable to provide flowers for his wedding "because of [her] relationship with Jesus Christ," according to the complaint.

At the time of the alleged denial, Stutzman was aware Ingersoll's "upcoming wedding for which he was seeking to purchase flowers would be to another man," the complaint stated.

"The fact that Mr. Ingersoll, a gay man, was seeking to purchase flowers for his wedding to another man was a substantial factor in [Stutzman's] refusal to sell him flowers," the complaint said.

Ferguson is seeking a permanent injunction that would require the store to comply with Washington's consumer protection laws and pay at least $2,000 in fines.

It was the second case in recent months in which a same-sex couple said they were denied service while planning their wedding.

READ: Bakery Denies Same-Sex Couple Wedding Cake

A lesbian couple went to Sweet Cakes, a Gresham, Ore., bakery Jan. 17 to order their wedding cake, but said they were told the bakery didn't serve same-sex marriages.

Aaron Klein, who owns Sweet Cakes with his wife, Melissa, told ABC News affiliate KATU-TV he was living in accordance with his religious beliefs when he refused to make the couple a wedding cake.

"I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn't mean to make anybody upset, [it's] just something I believe in very strongly," he said.

A complaint was filed with the Oregon Department of Justice; however a spokesman told ABCNews.com the couple said last month they planned to move the complaint to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

"Ace of Cakes" star Duff Goldman heard about the plight of the brides-to-be and said he would bake them a wedding cake free of charge.

"I want to give them a big hug and say congratulations," he told ABCNews.com in February. "It involves cake, it involves love, marriage, all things I'm a big fan of."