More than 60 percent of Washington residents oppose a lawsuit the state attorney general filed in April against a Richland florist after she refused to provide a floral arrangement for the wedding of a long-time gay customer, citing her religious faith, according to a new poll.
The poll by Elway Research was commissioned by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a religious conservative group which led the fight against same-sex marriage in Washington last fall. It has a margin of error of five percent.
The Elway Poll found that among the 402 people questioned at the end of May, 61 percent opposed – 35 percent of them strongly opposed – the attorney general’s lawsuit. Some 29 percent said they supported it.
The attorney general’s suit against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner Barronelle Stutzman stemmed from a March 1 incident in which Stutzman told a long-time gay customer that she could not provide flowers for his wedding because of her relationship with Jesus Christ.
Stutzman countersued the state last month, saying the attorney general’s attempt to force her to act against her religious conscience violates her state and federal constitutional rights.
“This lawsuit is mean-spirited and the public knows it,” said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
In a statement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “Quite simply, when it comes to enforcing Washington state laws, I pay no attention to polls.”
Survey respondents opposed the lawsuit at higher rates than they supported it, regardless of their age, education, gender or the part of the state in which they lived. Even in relatively liberal Seattle a higher percentage of respondents opposed it than supported it.
People under 50, who tend to favor same-sex marriage at rates higher than older people, opposed the lawsuit at rates above 50 percent.
Not surprisingly, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to support the attorney general’s action. In fact, Democrats were the only group to support the action at a higher rate than they opposed it, although the gap was hardly significant.