Arlene’s Flowers Attorney Set to Drop Stunning Information With Tuesday Filing
This could be, depending upon the judge’s ruling, considered a bombshell of information in the Arlene’s Flowers Discrimination case.
Tuesday, J.D. Bristol, the attorney for Arlene’s Flowers owner Baronelle Stutzman, plans to file the latest response to Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit. In his response, Bristol will introduce what he says is evidence the AG’s office does NOT have legal authority to address this case. And one of the pieces of evidence are statements from the AG’s office admitting that.
According to sources Newstalk 870 corresponded with, apparently this latest evidence will also show that since pursuing the lawsuit against Arlene’s and Stutzman, the AG’s office has received several similar sexual discrimination complaints but have declined to act on them because they don’t have the authority! The AG’s office referred these people to the Washington State Human Rights Commission. (Bold lettering and underlining added for emphasis).
The Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against Arlene’s for refusing to provide floral services for the same-sex wedding of a long-time client of the store. Citing the Consumer Protection Law, Janet Guthrie of the AG’s office told Newstalk 870 in April it was NOT unprecedented for them to take on such cases:
“we brought this action under the Consumer Protection Act, not under the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Discrimination against consumers on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, and it is not unprecedented or unusual for the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the Consumer Protection Act.”
Bristol recently filed a motion to dismiss the state’s case, and it included an inter-departmental email from Janelle Guthrie of the Attorney General’s Office sent to other AG office officials, dated March 7, 2013. It reads in part as follows:
“…The Attorney General’s Office does not have independent authority to address this matter. The couple could choose to file a complaint with the human rights commission…” (underlined text added for emphasis).
Bristol’s is 24-page petition to dismiss the lawsuit detailed the 30-year history of the Attorney General’s office NOT pursuing such claims. From the response:
”The Attorney General’s action here, on behalf of the State of Washington, is a based upon an unprecedented interpretation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The State’s action goes again the statute’s specific terms and more than thirty years of prior agency practice by successive Attorney’s General. This Court should reject the Attorney General’s illegitimate claim of authority to bring this action.”
Same-sex couples can file their case in court, and can also speak with the Washington Human Rights Commission. However, the State cannot go around the Commission, and does not have the legal authority or precedent to pursue such lawsuits as this one against Arlene’s. The couple refused service at Arlene’s have filed a suit with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Once this response is filed, the next question many will be asking is, why is the Attorney General’s office taking this unprecedented – and possibly illegal – action? Some critics, based upon similar cases across the country, say it’s an attempt to make an example of businesses and persons who don’t believe in same-sex marriage and it’s related issues. Others take it a step further, and suggest it’s an attempt to legally intimidate anyone who might take such a stand on the issue, regardless of the circumstances.
Some sources close to the case claim AG Ferguson is doing this for political reasons, attempting to curry favor with special-interest and political action groups. At any rate, the case is going to get a lot more interesting after Tuesday.