Talk about your pound of flesh! The owner of a Richland, Wash., flower shop who is being sued for refusing service to a same-sex couple planning a wedding could end up with literally nothing. Barronelle Stutzman, proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers, could lose not only her shop but her personal savings and even her home as a result of a judge’s ruling that Stutzman can be held personally liable.
The trial, which is currently underway, turns on Stutzman’s refusal to produce floral arrangements for the 2013 nuptials of two long-standing customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, on the basis of her religious beliefs.
Judge Alex Ekstrom ruled that “the clear language” of the Consumer Protection Act and state anti-discrimination law “supports both individual and corporate liability.” Stutzman’s attorneys argue that the state’s lawsuit is based on an “unprecedented interpretation” of the law.
Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom — a conservative advocacy group — and one of Stutzman’s attorneys, said, “We’re disappointed in the ruling,” noting that Stutzman would be on the hook personally for civil penalties and attorney fees should she lose. Waggoner released a statement reading:
Today’s judgment affirms the court’s earlier decision that Barronelle must pay a penalty for her faith and surrender her freedom and conscience. The penalty and fees imposed today are only the first punch. The ACLU, on behalf of the same-sex couple also suing Barronelle, has asked the court to award them penalties, fees, and costs, which will financially devastate Barronelle’s business and personal assets – including taking this 70-year old grandmother’s retirement and personal savings. The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.
Stutzman appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Kelly File.” A video clip of the segment follows.
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