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Washington State Supreme Court Hears Arlene's Flowers Case In Bellevue

The Washington Supreme Court Tuesday heard the case of a florist versus a same-sex couple who wanted flowers for their wedding in 2013. The owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, refused to take the job, saying it was against her religious beliefs.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued against that, saying there is a difference between a freedom to believe and a freedom to act.

“Ms. Stutzman for her religious expression is free to believe what she wishes,” Ferguson said. “But when she engages in public accommodations and avails herself of the protections and benefits that come with being a business, there are of course responsibilities that flow from that.”

In other words -- if she creates wedding flowers -- it has to be for all.

On the other side Stutzman's attorney, Kristen Kellie Waggoner, argued creating flowers is a form of art and free speech and that the florist can’t be compelled to create against her beliefs.

“It’s undisputed that Mrs. Stutzman would be more than happy to sell pre-arranged flowers, flowers out of the cooler,” Waggoner said. “Anything but the custom arrangement that requires intimate involvement in creating the expression itself.”

Michael Scott is the attorney for the same-sex couple. He argued under state law, Arlene’s Flowers can’t pick and choose who it wants to serve.

“When a person who is gay is lucky enough to meet someone and fall in love and the couple is willing to pledge their lives together -- that is who they are," Scott said. "They are expressing their identity, their very status when they seek to order a product or service.” Scott said if a business refuses to sell to same-sex couples -- but serves heterosexual couples -- that’s discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

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.