State of WA vs Arlene’s Flowers

The following is sources from Washington State Supreme Court ruling and the RCW 49.60.215. Links will be provided below. Also the opinions here are of that of the author and not any business or corporation.

State of WA vs Arlene’s Flowers

On February 16, 2017 the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the rulings made by a Benton County judge on whether or not Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman violated state law RCW 49.60.215. The case stems from when co-respondents Robert Ingersoll (who actually talked to Barronelle Stutzman and staff) and Curt Freed decided to get married on their 9th anniversary of being a same-sex couple.

A little history, as taken from the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling 91615-2, is that prior to the request of the Mr. Ingersoll, Mrs. Stutzman and her business were willing to provide floral services to this couple. Mrs. Stutzman acknowledge that she knew they are a same-sex couple. It was only when approached about doing a floral arrangement from whom they considered their florist, did there become an issue.

Upon knowing of their engagement, Mr. Ingersoll asked the staff of Arlene’s about doing the arrangement. The staff told him that he would need to talk to Mrs. Stutzman. When he came in the next day, she told him that she could not provide the service due to her religious beliefs and advised to use another florist. The following day Mr. Freed posted on Facebook about how he felt over the issue.

Here I must break from the narration of the ruling, and express my opinion. If you get a chance to read this ruling, and I will post a link down below, it starts to describe fear and retaliation both parties either expected or did actually experience. This should not be happening now or ever. We have come to far in our society to make people feel unwelcomed to have something as miraculous as the joining of two families in the name of love.

With that said, how is it ok to provide a service to this couple then deny them on another service on the premise of religion? Mrs. Stutzman says that applying her skills to provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex marriage is tantamount to endorsing the practice of same-sex marriage. She is also is confirmed to saying that providing services to an atheist or Islamic wedding is not endorsing those belief systems.

So here is the ruling of the Benton County Superior Court and the Washington State Supreme Court, Mrs. Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers committed a violation of RCW 49.60.215 which states:

“RCW 49.60.215
Unfair practices of places of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, amusement—Trained dog guides and service animals.
(1) It shall be an unfair practice for any person or the person’s agent or employee to commit an act which directly or indirectly results in any distinction, restriction, or discrimination, or the requiring of any person to pay a larger sum than the uniform rates charged other persons, or the refusing or withholding from any person the admission, patronage, custom, presence, frequenting, dwelling, staying, or lodging in any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement, except for conditions and limitations established by law and applicable to all persons, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, status as a mother breastfeeding her child, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability: PROVIDED, That this section shall not be construed to require structural changes, modifications, or additions to make any place accessible to a person with a disability except as otherwise required by law: PROVIDED, That behavior or actions constituting a risk to property or other persons can be grounds for refusal and shall not constitute an unfair practice.
(2) This section does not apply to food establishments, as defined in RCW 49.60.218, with respect to the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Food establishments are subject to RCW 49.60.218 with respect to trained dog guides and service animals.”

The courts are saying that she is in violation of this law because she provided the services, with knowledge that they were a same-sex couple, then denying the services is discriminatory. Normally I would side with a business having the right to deny service, however I feel that I cannot here.

If Mrs. Stutzman had from the beginning denied the services due to religious reasons, I would probably side with her for conviction purposes. The fact of the matter is that she provided a service with no issue. She is trying to hide behind a double standard of religion, that we can bend our convictions to service us when we want or it is convenient.

We do not get to pick and choose without consequences. Would jump from an airplane without a parachute? Would you choose to break the law? If you are lactose intolerant would you choose to eat dairy products? For every choice we make there is a consequence, good or bad, that we must live with. Choosing to enforce your beliefs in one instance but not another is hypocritical.

What about the couple that sued the business and Mrs. Stutzman? If they knew her beliefs, which I do not know if they did or not, in advance of their wedding, why go to her? While they are free to choose who they do business with, businesses are free to do business who they want as well.

My issue after reading the facts of this case is that while a business can deny services, they have to do so in a manner consistent to how they run there business. What I mean here is that if I go to a business I expect to be treated the same way every time. I try to research whether or not a business promotes they are of cultural, ethical, or religious beliefs. This allows me the consumer to choose whether my business will be welcomed or not. If I know enough about their beliefs I can make sure that no one will be offended by the request of services.

If you do not make your beliefs known up first then you cannot hide behind the defense of Freedom of Religion.

Link for RCW 49.60.215: http://www.access.wa.gov/search-access-washington?q=RCW++49.60.215+

Link for ruling: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=916152MAJ

 

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