A Washington state florist who was found guilty of discrimination over her refusal to provide flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple has rejected a settlement offer because it included a requirement that she not engage in similar discrimination in the future.
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, was recently offered a settlement that would require her to pay a $2,000 fine, plus $1 in legal and court fees. But the deal would have also required her to stop refusing service to gay clients in the future. In rejecting the offer from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Stutzman compared it to Judas' betrayal of Jesus
"You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver," Stutzman wrote to Ferguson in a letter that included her company's logo. "[T]hat is something I will not do."
Stutzman, a Southern Baptist, has thus far been unsuccessful in her legal proceedings. She got into hot water in March 2013 when two repeat customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, approached her about supplying flowers for their wedding. Court documents said Ingersoll had patronized Stutzman's business at least 20 times previously, and she was aware that he is gay. Still, she refused to fulfill Ingersoll's request because, she argued, doing so would be equivalent to condoning same-sex marriage.
Washington law forbids discrimination against LGBT residents, and Stutzman was sued for discrimination.
Stutzman later testified that she "just put my hands on his and told him because of my relationship with Jesus Christ I couldn't do that, couldn't do his wedding." She also wrote about her stance on her business's Facebook page.
In February, a judge rejected Stutzman's argument. Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom said in the case of Ingersoll v. Arlene's Flowers that religious beliefs, no matter how genuine, do not exempt Stutzman from obeying the law.
"Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law," Ekstrom wrote. "In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the courts have confirmed the power of the legislative branch...