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April 16, 2013 at 5:59 AM

Eastern Washington not unanimous on same-sex marriage or AG Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit

(Illustration by M. Ryder / Op Art)

(Illustration by M. Ryder / Op Art)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson last week reached across the Cascade Mountains to take a strong stand for Referendum 74, which Washington voters approved to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to a Seattle Times news story, Ferguson’s office sued Arlene’s Flowers of Richland in Benton County Superior Court for declining to create floral arrangements for the wedding of a longtime customer, a man who is marrying another man. The owner of the Richland shop, Barronelle Stutzman, said she could not perform the work because of her religious conviction.

Stutzman has some sympathy in her community — 63.2 percent of voters in Benton County opposed Referendum 74. But the editorial board of the community’s newspaper of record, The Tri-City Herald, endorsed the measure. And more than a month ago, when the controversy first erupted around the cities of of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick — a community of about 250,000 — the Herald criticized the decision by Arlene’s Flowers in an editorial.

Editorial colleague Thanh Tan last week asked readers their thoughts about this issue in a poll. Respondents to this unscientific, voluntary poll were somewhat split on whether the florist should have the right to refuse service.

On another, election-related topic, Ferguson says he had the same commitment to enforce Washington voters’ will on another ballot measure, Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana — something he did not support. He told a gathering of newspaper editors and publishers last week that he will defend the voters’ desire. In a statement, he said he told U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder he is preparing for all possibilities, including possible litigation if the federal government tries to make mischief with our state’s leadership on this matter.

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