The Richland florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding has netted more than $80,000 from an online crowdfunding page dedicated to “protect her and her livelihood.”
A GoFundMe page set up for Baronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, had raised $80,225 from 1,884 donors by 7:30 p.m. Saturday. While the page was set up in February, nearly half the money has been donated in the past 24 hours.
Supporters likened the benefit page to one set up for Memories Pizza, the Indiana pizza shop that closed after its owner said it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding in the wake of the state’s “religious freedom” law, which has since been revised. A page for the restaurant raised more than $842,000 in two days.
Stutzman was fined $1,000, plus $1 for court costs and fees in late March for refusing to serve a gay couple when they tried to buy wedding flowers in 2013. Stutzman, 70, said that though one of the men who wanted the flowers was her friend and she would continue to provide flowers for other occasions, providing flowers for his marriage went against her beliefs as a Southern Baptist.
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“It’s about freedom, not money,” Stutzman wrote in a letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Feb. 20, two days after a ruling that Stuzman had violated the Consumer Protection Act. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”
A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that all goods, merchandise and servings sold or offered by Arlene’s Flowers be offered or sold on the same terms to all couples. The Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to Stutzman before filing the lawsuit in April 2013 asking her to comply with Washington law.
“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,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote.