Washington Florist Faces Second Lawsuit for Refusing Service for Gay Wedding

A Washington florist is facing a second lawsuit, filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, after refusing to provide her services to a same-sex wedding due to her religious beliefs.

Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Wash., is now being sued in two separate lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on grounds of discrimination.

The ACLU is representing the male couple who were denied service by Stutzman in March, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed of Kennewick.

"Everybody is entitled to their own private religious beliefs and the ACLU respects that strongly," Doug Honig, spokesman for the ACLU of Washington state, told Reuters of the nonprofit organization's decision to file suit with Stutzman.

"But a business open to the public cannot use religion as a reason to justify discriminating," Honig contended.

Earlier in April, Stutzman was slammed with a consumer protection lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

"Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation," Ferguson said in a statement sent to The Seattle Times.

"If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service," Ferguson added.

On March 1, Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the same-sex marriage of Ingersoll and Freed, citing her Christian faith as the reason why she had to refuse.

"He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, 'I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,'" Stutzman, who added that this is the first wedding she has declined in 37 years, told KEPR-TV news.

Stutzman has received a fair amount of support for her Christian convictions through social media, with one Facebook group, "Stand with Barronelle Stutzman," quoting Matthew 5:10-19 to show their solidarity with the florist.

Both parties are reportedly gearing up for a long legal battle.

Freed told The Associated Press that he and his fiancé are prepared for a long legal procedure, and Stutzman's attorney, Justin D. Bristol, added to the AP that he hopes to have Stutzman's case moved to federal court as a free speech case.

"What the state is saying is you are compelled to express assent on an issue that you don't agree with, and that violates the First Amendment," said Bristol in regards to the suit filed by the attorney general.

Bristol added to KEPR-TV that Stutzman is not against homosexuality, but rather same-sex marriage.

"This is about gay marriage, it's not about a person being gay," Bristol told the local news station.

 "She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality."

In November 2012, Washington became one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage based on a popular vote.

Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

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