A clear path forward has been set to strike down discrimination and support the rights of same-sex couples.

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A BENTON County judge made it resoundingly clear this week that businesses must provide the same service to same-sex couples as they do to couples of the opposite sex.

The ruling came nearly two years after the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s marriage because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”

In a 60-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found shop-owner Barronelle Stutzman’s actions discriminatory and in violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Had Stutzman balked before Nov. 5, 2012, Ekstorm wrote, there would have been no conflict between her Southern Baptist belief and the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act.

It was the November 2012 election that changed everything. Voters approved Referendum 74 legalizing same-sex marriage, thus setting up what Ekstrom deemed “a direct and insoluble conflict between … religiously motivated conduct and the laws of the State of Washington.”

Ekstrom noted that for 135 years courts have held that U.S. laws can “prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief.”

Ekstrom, quoting from the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the 1878 case Reynolds v. United States, wrote, “Can a man excuse his practices … because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.”

As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, Stutzman could be fined $4,000 and be held liable for court costs and attorney fees. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Thursday said he would seek a $2,000 fine and $1 in costs if Stutzman agreed to not discriminate in the future and end further litigation.

On Friday, Stutzman in a letter to Ferguson stated that the case was “about freedom, not money … my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

So, expect an appeal.

Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner from Alliance Defending Freedom, criticized Ekstrom’s ruling.

“Americans have always had the freedom to think as they wish, but also freedom from government-compelled artistic expression and participation in events that violate our deepest beliefs,” Waggoner said.

Such arguments are an inevitable outcome of historic changes in civil rights, and it may take the courts a few years to sort out the law of the land regarding such changes.

But, Ekstrom has set a clear path forward to strike down discrimination and support the intentions of Washington voters in extending marriage to same-sex couples.