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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 9, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 02
State can sue anti-Gay florist, judge says
Section One
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State can sue anti-Gay florist, judge says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer The state of Washington is entitled to sue the owner of a Richland flower shop who refused to sell flowers to a Gay couple for their wedding, a judge said January 7.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled that state Attorney General Bob Ferguson can sue Baronelle Stutzman and her business for violating the state Consumer Protection Act and the Law Against Discrimination.

Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the wedding of her long-time customer Robert Ingersoll to his now-husband Curt Freed, on the grounds that Gay marriages conflict with her Christian faith.

Ingersoll complained to the state, and the Attorney General's office wrote to Stutzman, demanding that she comply with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the anti-discrimination statute. When she refused, Ferguson sued both the owner and her business, asking for a permanent injunction requiring compliance with the CPA.

'[T]he clear language [of the consumer and anti-discrimination laws] supports both individual and corporate liability,' Ekstrom wrote in his decision.

'As admitted by Stutzman, she not only participated in the conduct alleged, her personal actions [in defining corporate policy and in her interaction with Ingersoll] constitute the sum total of the conduct complained of by the plaintiffs,' Ekstrom continued.

Ekstrom added that the Stutzman's arguments 'would completely deny the AG, the sole government agency entitled to enforce the CPA, the ability to vindicate the public's interest in ending discrimination & committed 'in the course of trade or commerce.'

'It's no accident that Judge Ekstrom's ruling so closely mirrors our arguments, and we look forward to the decision on the remaining motions,' Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement.

'We believe Washington law is very clear that businesses in Washington cannot discriminate. If you serve opposite-sex partners, you must serve same-sex partners equally.'

Two additional motions remain to be decided.

First, Stutzman claims that the Attorney General's Office and the individual plaintiffs lack legal standing to sue.

Second, the Attorney General and the individual plaintiffs have asked for summary judgment in the case, on the grounds that the undisputed facts show that Stutzman violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

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