Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson offers a $2,000 settlement to the owner of a Benton County flower shop found to have discriminated against a gay couple.
The owner of a Benton County flower shop found by a judge to have discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them wedding flowers could settle the matter for $2,000.
An attorney for Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, said Thursday that the settlement offer came as a surprise and that she learned about it when state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the offer in a news release.
The lawyer, Kristen Waggoner with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, said Stutzman would consider Ferguson’s offer and announce her decision Friday.
A Benton County Superior Court judge on Wednesday found Stutzman, 70, had violated state consumer-protection and anti-discrimination laws.
Most Read Local Stories
- Wondering why society went off-kilter during the pandemic? It was all predicted in this book
- COVID hospitalizations down in Washington, but deaths are on the rise
- Video shows helicopter rescue of missing hiker in Olympic National Park
- He found an intact headstone buried in his Seattle backyard. You might, too
- 60,000 Seattle-area renters are behind on rent as eviction moratoriums near expiration
The judge said it was one thing to hold a religious belief, but another thing to discriminate because of it.
While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled.
Waggoner said the Ferguson settlement offer was “a bit unconventional” in that it was made publicly.
“My primary goal has always been to bring about an end to the defendant’s unlawful conduct and to make it clear that I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Ferguson said in the news release.
He offered to settle for the $2,000 fine under the Consumer Protection Act and $1 in fees.
If Stutzman refuses, she could be fined $2,000 for each incident of discrimination and be liable for the state’s attorneys fees in a case that has lasted 18 months. According to the court, the fines could the levied against Stutzman’s business and against her personally.
According to court documents and evidence presented in the case, Stutzman sold flowers for years to customer Robert Ingersoll, knowing he was gay and giving the flowers to his partner, Curt Freed.
Washington state adopted gay marriage in 2012, and Ingersoll went to the shop the following spring to ask Stutzman to provide flowers for his wedding. Stutzman, in a deposition, said she placed her hands on his and told him she couldn’t, “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The attorney general sued, as did the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the couple.