Arlene's Flowers - a florist in Richland, WA - is facing national scrutiny after refusing service to a gay couple. Barronelle Stuzman, the owner of Arelene's Flowers, says she believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and expresses those beliefs through her business practices. In referencing the discriminatory refusal of service, she said, "And I just took his hands and I said I'm sorry I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ."
One of the two victims - Rob Ingersoll - said that "It came as a shock to me because I've had a nine year relationship with Barronelle and have never thought there was a reason that she wouldn't..." He and his partner Curt have been together nine years, and have been patronizing Stuzman's shop for several years prior to this incident. The incident first went public after he posted about his anger on Facebook. From there, things went viral. Stuzman's primary response to everyone posting negative messages on her Facebook page can be summed up succinctly in one comment she made: "The issue is I just didn't want to participate in the marriage."
Apparently, a financial transaction and exchange of goods for money now constitutes participation in someone else's marriage. Stretched reasoning aside, Stuzman readily admitted she thinks her religion should supercede the rights of those that patronize her shop, and she isn't afraid to own up to it.
|Robert Ingersoll, Barronelle Stuzman|
Stuzman isn't the first nor will she be the last to use her religious beliefs to discriminate against patrons. While few people would support a business who explicitly denied service to different races or religions, sexual orientation still seems to be the last hold-out in the "religious employment practices" exemption game. Unfortunately for Stuzman, Washington state law isn't so behind the times. The Washington Law Against Discrimination, found in RCW 49.60.030, (the Freedom from discrimination - Declaration of Civil Rights) protects the LGBT community from just this sort of discrimination as it covers public accommodation (including sexual orientation as a protected class).
Like others in recent news (like the bakery in Oregon who similarly refused service), it's hard to tell if this was an actual case of convictions or a ploy to gain national attention. The other shop experienced a spike in sales from devout Christians who supported the shop's right to discriminate against the LGBT community. This may just be another case of greed disguised as conviction. If it's the real deal though, Stuzman may need to re-evaluate her business plan - especially in light of the legal options the disenfranchised couple have available under state law.
Here's the local news NBC news coverage of the incident: