Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist from Washington State, said Rob Ingersoll is one of her favourite customers. Rob had been one of Barronelle’s customers for close to a decade. To Barronelle, Rob was more than a customer. He was a friend.
But when Rob asked Barronelle to design the floral arrangements for his upcoming same-sex wedding, Barronelle had to politely decline because of her Christian convictions. Barronelle said she would gladly sell him any of the prearranged flowers, or any of the loose flowers, but as much as she loved Rob, she couldn’t create something to celebrate an event that was against her faith.
Rob said he understood. The two chatted for a while, then hugged and that was the end of it. Until a few weeks later when Barronelle received a letter in the mail from Washington State’s Attorney General.
“The government was threatening to sue me unless I designed floral arrangements for same-sex weddings,” Barronelle said.
Rob had not filed a complaint. The Attorney General simply saw a post that Rob’s partner had put on social media. He then took it upon himself to threaten Barronelle.
“The government and the ACLU sued my business, and me personally, for discrimination,” Barronelle said. “My lawyers and I have been battling this case in court for four years.
“My case is simple: Will I serve gay customers? Yes! I served Rob joyfully for over nine years and would welcome him back to my shop even now. Will I hire gay employees? Yes! And I have. Will I let the government force me to create art expressing things I don’t believe in? No. And that’s my right. That’s every American’s First Amendment right,” she said.