Richland Florist Refuses to Serve Gay Wedding CustomerPosted: Updated:
RICHLAND, Wash. -- "It was a very exciting moment, probably one of the happiest days of my life," said Rob Ingersoll of his engagement to his partner of nine years, Curt.
So when it was time to make preparations for their September 19th, Rob wanted to go with the florist he and Curt have been using for years, Barronelle Stuzman, the owner of Arelene's Flowers in Richland.
However, when he asked her, Stuzman politely declined. "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," said Stuzman who believes marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Ingersoll said he does respect her views, but he was shocked this never came up in all the years he and his partner have been customers at the store, even sending flowers to each other.
"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..." said Ingersoll in tears.
But Stuzman insists she does not discriminate against same sex couples or any group for that matter. "We hire gay people. I have friends that are gay, that wasn't the issue. The issue is that I just didn't want to participate in the marriage," she said.
Ingersoll said days after this happened last Friday, he was so upset he posted about what happened on his personal Facebook page. He said the word spread like wildfire, mostly from supporters.
Stuzman said she had mixed reactions and so much attention that she posted a response on Arlene's Flowers' Facebook page.
"I've had hate mail. I've had people who want to burn my building, I've had people say they'll never shop here again and tell all their friends. And I've had other people say thanks for standing up for your convictions and we'll shop here and we'll back you in any way we can," Stuzman said.
Despite their differences and the opinions of many, Jill Mullins, of the QLaw Foundation, which is a gay rights attorney organization, said Stuzman did violate the Washington Law Against Discrimination, found in RCW 49.60.030, the Freedom from discrimination - Declaration of civil rights.
(1) The right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. This right shall include, but not be limited to:
(d) The right to engage in credit transactions without discrimination.
Ingersoll said he is not yet sure what he'll do in the future, and has been contacted by several attorneys including the ACLU.
Saturday, there will be a community meeting at Columbia Basin College at the Gjerde Center from11:30am-2:30pm called "Marriage Equality Explained. Panelists include David Ward of Legal Voice, Hank Balson of the ACLU and Jill Mullins. The event will be moderated by NBC Right Now's Shane Edinger. The meeting will discuss what happens if you get married in Washington and will explain the ways the state and federal laws impact the realization of full marriage equality.
To RSVP, please contact John Flodin at firstname.lastname@example.org.