A Richland florist is asking a Benton County Superior Court judge to dismiss a state lawsuit against her for refusing to provide floral arrangements for a gay wedding, saying Attorney General Bob Ferguson lacks the authority to bring the suit, particularly since the couple at the center of the case never complained to the state.
In April, the attorney general sued Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, under the state’s consumer-protection law after reading news accounts about her refusal to provide wedding flowers for the upcoming wedding of two gay men.
Days later, the ACLU of Washington filed a civil suit against Stutzman on behalf of the men, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. The two cases have been consolidated.
Stutzman is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization that defends individuals in religion-based suits.
In their motion to dismiss the state’s case against the florist, they argue that for 30 years, the attorney general’s office refused to address discrimination complaints directly, deferring instead to the Washington Human Rights Commission, which is charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
They argue the state has “undeniably failed” to pursue any of a range of remedies available through the commission’s administrative process.
In a separate motion, they are also asking the judge to dismiss claims in both cases that Stutzman is personally liable as a corporate officer of her company, pointing out that state law does not allow someone to attack a corporate officer personally, except under exceptional circumstances when that person knowingly engaged in fraud, misrepresentation or theft.