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Same-Sex Couple Asks ACLU to Help Fight Arlene’s Flowers

ACLU joins Arlene's Flowers case at request of couple
(Arlene’s Flowers Facebook page)

At the request of the two men  turned away at Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, the ACLU has jumped into the fray.

A phone call Thursday to the ACLU confirmed that Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed have asked the ACLU to help in their discrimination complaint against Arlene’s Flowers of Richland.

A report by the ACLU issued late Wednesday indicated it was “representing” the two men. Doug Honig of the group confirmed Thursday Ingersoll and Freed initiated contact.

The Attorney General’s office has filed a suit against Baronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s, for denying marriage floral services to the men because she opposes same-sex marriage. Ingersoll is a long-time patron of the store. The AG says Stutzman violated the Consumer Protection Act, which since 2006 protects people regardless of gender or sexual preference. Stutzman’s attorney argues the case violates her First Amendment rights to religious freedom and freedom of expression.

The ACLU says the couple is seeking the following remedy to the situation:

  • That Arlene’s Flowers agree not to refuse to provide flowers and other goods and services to any person on the basis of his or her sexual orientation.
  • That Arlene’s Flowers agree to write a letter of apology to Mr. Freed and Mr. Ingersoll to be published in the Tri-City Herald.
  • That Arlene’s Flowers agree to donate $5,000 to the Vista Youth Center in Kennewick, in lieu of payment of attorney’s fees.

Honig confirmed this offer is good through April 17. Honig confirmed that if Stutzman refuses, the ACLU is considering legal action in the matter, but did not say for sure if they would pursue litigation.

The AG filed the suit in Benton County Superior Court, but no date has been set.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington is one of a number of non-profit action groups pledging support for Stutzman. Joseph Backholm, executive director, believes this case could mirror what has happened in other areas of the country. The FPIW website has listed what they say are examples of alleged discrimination used to force citizens, businesses — even churches — to comply with policies that violate their religious and other freedoms:

  • In Washington D.C., Catholic adoption services had to make the decision to close their adoption ministry rather than place children with homosexual households, which would violate Catholic teachings.
  • In New Jersey, shortly after the State Supreme Court mandated “civil unions,” a Methodist church was stripped of its tax-exempt status because it wouldn’t rent facilities for lesbian civil union ceremonies. They are now being sued for discrimination. (Bernstein v. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association)
  • In New Mexico, Christian photographers were fined $6,000+ for discrimination because they declined the opportunity to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. (Willock v. Elaine Photography).

 

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