Does a Richland florist have the right to provide service to a gay man for years, then decide she won’t do business with him when he tells her he’s using the flowers in his wedding ceremony to another man?
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson doesn’t think so. Discrimination is discrimination, and Washington treats the institution of marriage the same for all after the passage of Referendum 74 last November.
Here’s the skinny from Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull’s Tuesday news story:
“The suit stems from a March 1 incident in which Robert Ingersoll went to Arlene’s to purchase flowers for his upcoming wedding. (Barronelle) Stutzman refused him service, citing her “relationship with Jesus Christ.
“In its suit, the Attorney General’s Office said the florist discriminated against Ingersoll based on his sexual orientation in violation of Washington’s anti-discrimination laws and its Consumer Protection Act. The state is seeking $2,000 in penalties and a permanent injunction requiring the florist to comply with state laws.”
Ferguson’s interpretation of the law won’t be welcomed by same-sex marriage opponents — check out this Wednesday blog post from the socially conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington — but he’s making the right call by confronting this issue head-on in the post-Ref. 74 era.
Remember, only ten counties in Washington voted in favor of Referendum 74, the measure to affirm the Legislature’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012. Twenty-nine others, including Benton and Franklin counties where the Tri-Cities are located, soundly rejected the measure by 63.2 percent and 68.78 percent, respectively.
Our editorial board debated this issue in our morning meeting and we were reminded: “Change is never easy.” Our colleague Lynne K. Varner mentioned another point: During the civil rights era, white-owned businesses routinely refused services to black Americans in many parts of this country.
Let’s accept it will take time for some citizens to come around to the idea of same-sex marriage, if they ever do at all.
Regardless, keep the conversation going.
What do you think of the AG’s lawsuit? Take our poll.
And here’s a visual look at the county results for last November’s Referendum 74: