Who Was Hurt by Arlene’s Flowers? Attorney General Going Maverick
Unlike a number of similar cases from around the country, the discrimination action taken against Arlene's Flowers in Richland came straight from the state's attorney general, and not a victim.
A few months ago the owner of Arlene's Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, declined to provide flowers to a long-time client because he wanted them for a same-sex marriage. She said she could not provide the service because she opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
The customer, Robert Ingersoll, vented about the encounter on social media. He has since said he and Stutzman had agreed to disagree. Janet Guthrie of the attorney general's office confirmed by e-mail Tuesday Ingersoll did not file a complaint. Attorney General Bob Ferguson took action against the store after reading of the encounter in the news.
On March 28, Ferguson sent a letter to Stuzman requesting she reconsider her actions and sign an agreement indicating she would comply with Washington law (The Consumer Protection Act).
Through her attorney, she refused.
The state has now filed a complaint in Benton County Superior Court seeking a permanent injunction requiring her to comply and seeking a $2,000 fine for each violation of the law.
According to Ferguson:
As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. 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.