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Washington Florist Sues State, Says She 'Will Not Wilt'

Anna King
Northwest News Network

There’s a new development in the case of a Richland, Wash. florist who refused to sell flowers for a same sex couple’s wedding. The business owner’s lawyers announced a counter suit Thursday saying the florist “will not wilt.”

The owner of Arlene’s Flowers argues there are plenty of other shops in the Tri-Cities that could cater to a gay or lesbian wedding. But lawyers for Barronelle Stutzman say she’s refusing that business because of her religious beliefs.

Her lead counsel, Dale Schowengerdt says, there is no reason to use the state’s anti-discrimination law to force her to provide flowers for this ceremony. In fact, he says her religious rights and freedom are rooted in the state’s constitution.

This is now the third lawsuit in the case. Washington State’s Attorney General and the flower-seeking gay couple have both sued. In a statement, the Attorney General’s office says, “As an individual, she [Stutzman] is free to hold religious beliefs, but as a business owner, she may not violate our state's laws against discrimination.”

The Richland case is getting a lot of national, even international, attention, but two other similar instances are popping up in Oregon. Two bakeries -- one in Portland and another near Hood River -- have refused to bake for same sex weddings for religious reasons.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.