KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — Residents rallied in a small Alaska city to support LGBTQ rights after a florist declined to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Tommy Varela said Heavenly Creations in Ketchikan told his mother the business would not provide flowers for his wedding ceremony after learning there were two grooms, The Juneau Empire reported.
Between 100 and 200 people attended the June 5 demonstration, lining the street and holding signs expressing support for the LGBTQ community.
Kathleen Varela said she phoned the same florist her son used to get a boutonniere for his prom when she was seeking flowers for the nuptials in August.
“I said, ‘It’s a wedding for two grooms, are you comfortable with that?’ And there was a long and awkward silence and then ‘No, I’m not comfortable with that,’” Kathleen Varela said.
There was no exchange of names and she is not sure who was on the phone, but the florist has not previously expressed antipathy toward the LGBTQ community, Kathleen Varela said.
“I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the ‘no,’ especially since we’ve done business,” she said.
Heavenly Creations did not return messages from the Juneau Empire, but shop owner Heather Dalin told the Ketchikan Daily News the business would not comment on the advice of attorneys.
Tommy Varela and a friend organized the rally the next day outside the florist’s location on Ketchikan’s waterfront.
“We had someone with a megaphone leading a couple of love chants,” Tommy Varela said. “We cheered for all the honks we got. I feel like there weren’t any moments of silence.”
The demonstration was a “display of love and affection” and not meant to directly oppose the floral business, he said.
“Ketchikan already has this great sense of community, and I’ve seen them come together in times of need to support,” he said.
Some Alaska cities and boroughs have laws against discrimination based on gender expression or sexual orientation, but the state does not.
“I think it’s a perfect time for this state to be at the forefront of another LGBTQ battle, anti-discrimination laws and other laws that protect queer people from discrimination,” Tommy Varela said.