Florist rejects attorney general’s deal to settle lawsuit over same-sex weddings


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The Washington florist whose entire assets a judge has ruled can be confiscated because she refuses to participate in a same-sex wedding because of her Christian religion has rejected outright a settlement offered to her by the state’s attorney general.

Ms. Stutzman [the florist] rejected Friday a settlement agreement offered by Mr. Ferguson [the attorney general] that would have required her to pay $2,001 in damages and legal fees after a judge ruled last week that she violated state law by declining to provide services for a same-sex wedding. “My primary goal has always been to bring about an end to the Defendants’ unlawful conduct and to make clear that I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mr. Ferguson said in a statement.

The agreement also would require Ms. Stutzman to agree “not to discriminate in the future,” which means she must provide custom floral arrangements for same-sex weddings or stop doing weddings altogether, said Peter LaVallee, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

In rejecting the offer, Stutzman was very blunt about her reasons.

“Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about,” Ms. Stutzman said in a letter to Mr. Ferguson. “It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.

“…I pray that you reconsider your position. … I kindly served Rob [the gay plaintiff] for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case.”

She concluded, “You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process.”

The mildness of the attorney general’s offer suggests to me that he is feeling some political heat. He looks like a tyrant and a bad guy who is trying to destroy this woman expressly because of her religious beliefs. He thus wants this case to end with a victory, but to end as quickly as possible.

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12 comments

  • Pzatchok

    Its starting to look like it was a case of participation and not just a case of sales to a gay couple.

    My church is open to the public. Does that mean we will be forced to allow wedding services to take place inside it? Possibly with non Catholic ministers presiding.

    As it stands now we only allow Catholic weddings to take place. And only with Catholic priests.
    Or how about renting out our hall?

  • Cotour

    A mans land is being flooded in a terrible storm, as people flee the area they ask him “are you coming with us?”

    He replies I trust in God, Im staying, he will save me.

    The water continues to rise and its coming in the door and a guy in a row boat comes by and asks ” come on get in lets get out of here”.

    The man replies ” no thanks I will trust in God, he will save me”

    Now the man is on the roof and a helicopter comes by and wants to air lift him from his peril and impending death.

    He waves them off and shouts to them “I trust that God will save me!”

    The man is eventually swept away and as he sits at the feet of God he asks God “God, whats up with allowing me to drown?”

    God replies ” I didn’t let you drown, first I sent you your neighbors who asked you to come with them as the water began to rise, and you refused, you said God will save me. Then I sent you a man in a row boat and you refused, you said God will save me. Then I really went over board and out of my way and sent you a helicopter (helicopters are expensive you know) and you yelled up to him. No thanks, God will save me”

    Then God said ” I was trying to save you but you were not hearing me, what more could I do?”

    And as his penance for spending his life worshiping God and constantly speaking and singing about loving and respecting All people who he inhabited the earth with? The man spent eternity running a flower shop in heaven, and you really have a very diverse cleintele in heaven and God insists that everyone be treated equally because he created them all equally and loves them all equally no matter what their beliefs are, he’s a real stickler.

  • Cotour

    How about this as a possible scenario:

    A woman who attends a church for 30 years every Sunday, who was initially married in that church, who has had all of her children baptized in that church, divorces her husband continues to attend that church and falls in love with a fellow female congregant and they want to be married in the church they both worship, in a state where gay marriage is legal.

    And lets throw in just for good measure the priest who runs the whole thing who is known to be a closeted gay man and they both insist that he perform the service.

    Now that is a brain burner.

  • Jake V

    That’s not a brain burner at all. If we are speaking of the Catholic parish referenced by Pzatchotk, the Catholic Church does not approve of homosexual marriage (it is not wrong to be a homosexual but it is wrong to act out on it). Once that lady divorces her husband (something the church may or may not recognize) and chooses to enter into a relationship with a member of the same sex she effectively removes herself from being a Catholic in good standing. She can easily return to being a Catholic in good standing through repentance and giving up her same-sex relationship, but until she does she is not really Catholic anymore. She is free to leave the Catholic Church and seek out another church that recognized same-sex unions. Freedom of religion means that Catholics and other Christians can reject same sex relationships as sinful and wrong, something they want no part of. Freedom of religion also means that this lady can leave and do what she wants. And both sides have the freedom to advocate for laws supporting their teachings.

    As to Pzatchotk’s other point, Catholic parishes that used to rent their halls to anyone for a wedding reception are now starting to limit the hall rentals to registered parishioners. That is the only way to avoid being forced to support something that they consider to be immoral.

  • Cotour

    That is a reasonable explanation and logical religious resolution. I just would not want to be the priest who had to explain those details to his loyal congregants if they did not already realize them.

    If they were to marry somewhere else would they then be asked to leave their long time church because of them now being same sex and married?

    And just to make it interesting lets say one of the women is a loyal, rich, religious eccentric and is in the habit of tithing 10 percent of her income to the church every year and her usual tithe was on the order of $500K per year.

  • pzatchok

    Her tithe has nothing to do with her being in good standing with the church. Period, end of that.
    The tithe is a voluntary gift and not a membership fee with those who give more getting more.

    The Roman Catholic church has no reason to accept any marriage outside of the Roman Catholic faith.
    They do not accept gay marriage and if they found out she was married homosexually outside the church she would no longer be a member in good standing.

    She may attend the church as guest but she may not take part in the services. Like Holy Communion, burial and marriage, along with other rights. They would not be asked to leave out of being a good christian, just simply polite and possibly they will rethink their decision and no longer be actively homosexual.

    She and her friend are free to attend any other faith she wishes and become a member there if they wish to participate in the services that faith offers.

    And all members of the church already know these things, its part of becoming Catholic.

  • pzatchok

    Ever feel like that guy and all of us were the ones God sent to you?

    God created us all equally but he also gave us all free will to choose our own way.
    He also gave us a guide book, a guide and rules to help us along that way.
    Its up to you if you want to follow His rules and way and be invited to heaven or if you want to go some other way and take your chances.

  • Cotour

    No, I do not feel that way at all, I may be the one lone person sent to all of you, consider that.

    I feel that in time and some point in the future you will be involved in a situation where the light bulb goes off in your head and you will be contacting me and tell me that you finally understand my well thought out and defended point here. The sane, fair and reasonable among you anyway.

    You see I have settled this issue long ago, I do this every day, and I did not come to it easily but I came to understand the logic of the situation and how it squares with the Constitution and the responsibilities that people create for themselves, even if they do not fully understand the implications of those responsibilities.

  • Edward

    >> Ever feel like that guy and all of us were the ones God sent to you?

    > No, I do not feel that way at all, I may be the one lone person sent to all of you, consider that.

    Probably not. Our positions are based upon the book that the shopkeeper follows and the US Constitution that We the People wished our government followed.

    > I came to understand the logic of the situation and how it squares with the Constitution and the responsibilities that people create for themselves,

    I wish you would explain it to us, though. Your position keeps coming off as “my position is true because I say so.”

    Please explain how the gay couple’s rights exceed the right to freely practice religion. BTW, the rights of the couple were not violated. They still got married. They still bought their flowers. So the only rights that are trying to be bestowed upon the customer is the right to arbitrarily violate the shopkeeper’s right to freely practice her religion. Please explain how the right to violate the shopkeeper’s rights are supported by the US Constitution.

    > I feel that in time and some point in the future you will be involved in a situation where the light bulb goes off in your head and you will be contacting me and tell me that you finally understand my well thought out and defended point here.

    If your well thought out point were so well defended, then why have you failed to convert us? Why does your point violate the US Constitution and the American way? Why is violating a shopkeeper’s rights a new aspect, just created by the unjust judge, to commerce in America and does not conform to the old, long standing tradition of American values? As it is so new, how can it be so well thought out in your mind?

    As far as I can tell, your position is that you get to have your way, no matter who else is inconveniences or harmed. I can understand how that can seem like liberty, to you, but when your personal rules are the rules the world has to live by, there isn’t as much liberty for the rest of us as you might think. I can see how your position can be well thought out, and how you can like it, because it would be ever so nice if I could live the same way that you do.

    Instead, the rest of us have to consider the rights of others before we take actions that could violate those rights. We were taught that way back in grammar school civics classes. For instance, instead of being able to do anything that I want, I have to live by the same rules as those around me. So does the shopkeeper. So does the gay couple; however, the summary judgment declares that the gay couple need not consider the rights of the shopkeeper, any more, and may unreasonably, unfairly, and un-Constitutionally violate her on a whim.

    Consider this me contacting you, but not to tell you that I fell down the tyranny hole with you, but asking you to explain why your tyranny should be preferred over our liberty.

  • Cotour

    I can only explain the elements of the situation and how they fit together, and I believe that I have done a thorough, reasonable and competent job in doing that,but I can not understand it for you.

  • Edward

    I’m so sorry to read your response. Either your belief is misplaced, your expression of your position is unconvincing, or your position is one of tyranny.

    Having been part of this discussion for the past week or so, I am inclined to conclude the last option.

    I am not asking you to understand it for me, just to understand it well enough to explain it to me clearly and concisely and in one place. Otherwise, I and many, most, or all of the others reading this blog will conclude that yours is a position of tyranny based upon something other than the US Constitution.

    Your lack of clarity may be why “none of [us] have made any real headway against [your] premise.” I believe that most of everyone else’s arguments have been clear and specific, usually avoiding distractions that deviate from the matter at hand.

    Because you will not explain it in a clear manner, I am not sure that you understand your premise or position well enough to know the inconsistency between your position on free speech and your position on free religion. Further, I am not sure that you understand it well enough to know how the gay couple was harmed. And you most definitely have not explained it well enough to be convincing, since we are not convinced.

    Too often, I have been in violent agreement with people, and after much frustration we finally realize that we had wasted a lot of time over a small misunderstanding. This could be the case here, because you and I agree on so many other topics. At this point we may merely be confused about each other’s position, because the various arguments and points are splattered over many pages of comments and three different posts.

    It is easy to believe that we are confused about each others positions, because of disagreements such as your continual statement that I think that rights exist in a vacuum and my statements that rights are compared with each other (I understand that they are not in a vacuum) to resolve disputes about the collision of those rights.

    So, I ask that you present your position, once again, so that the confusions generated by the scattered comments can be dismissed and replaced with a clarity that allows us to be sure that the rest of us understand your position without the misconceptions that we apparently have gained over the past week. That could help us to understand and may finally convince us that your position is the correct position.

    I really want to take your position seriously, and I really want your position to be one that favors freedom and liberty, as with so many of your other positions.

    I am patient. Please take your time putting it together, even if you don’t post it until after the weekend.

    As a starting point, I understand your position to be:
    The customer may require that a shopkeeper perform services even when such services violate her religion. Thus, the customer’s right to service, convenience, and happiness are superior to the shopkeeper’s First Amendment protected rights. The state may seize the shopkeeper’s property until she complies with the customer’s requirements, or put her out of business if she refuses to violate her religion. Because the shopkeeper runs an open-to-the-public establishment, she is required to serve all customers in this manner.

    What I do not understand is the clause in the Constitution that puts the customer’s rights ahead of the shopkeepers, and where in the shopkeeper’s bible she is required to violate her bible or religion in favor of the customer’s desires. I also do not know what American tradition of doing business and/or where in the Uniform Commercial Code or in law the customer may insist that the shopkeeper violate her religion.

    Please explain where I am wrong and correct it.

  • Cotour

    One more time:

    First: The state is not forcing her to do anything other than treat all of her customers / the public equally. What they are saying is that she can not offer her service or product to one customer and then because another customer is personally offensive to her or her religion she tells them that she will not be providing the very same service or product to them. The state calls that discrimination and they are correct. Again, this is the real world, not the hypothetical world.

    Second: I do not believe there is a threat from the state to confiscate anything or “ruin” her as the rhetoric implies, that is the emotionalizing of the situation by those who want to villanize the state (read, her lawyers, its strategy) and the customers in order to create public outrage, that’s called spin or PR. There may or may not be a fine of $2000.00 and the customers are demanding the sum of $7.91 for their inconvenience. A warning and some education on the subject from the state would be just fine here for me. And I am not diminishing her plight here, no one wants to be interacting with the law when its really not necessary, especially when you believe one thing and it does not quite jive with another.

    “The customer may require that a shopkeeper perform services even when such services violate her religion.”

    The customers are not requiring the shop owner to perform anything other than provide equal service or products to them in her open to the public shop as she would provide to any one else. She supplies flowers to her customers for their weddings so for her to cite that because of an offence to her religion she is going to single out and refuse to sell her flowers to these particular customers but would be willing to sell her flowers to anyone else that is where her problem originates.

    The woman who in her private life is apparently religious has chosen to operate a business that is open to the general public and the business is licensed by the state within which she operates it. Anyone who operates a business in the United States operates within some form of entity / sanction of the state within which they operate, a DBA, a sole proprietorship, a corporation, an LLC, a non profit etc. some form of entity which is granted by the state.

    In addition to the state granting their entity some of these company’s collect sales taxes from their operations and to a degree are agents of in addition to being citizens of the state and being an agent of the state and being empowered to operate as one of the many entities that one can operate within which ever state, there is an obligation to operate the business according to the duly passed laws of that state. Like it or not the state controls here, but the rules are generally few, generally reasonable and they are easily followed. Not like 150 years ago but we live in 2015.

    That is the general legal controlling thinking from the customer and the states point of view, and it is reasonable IMO. Let what I wrote roll around in your head a bit before we get to the shop keeper and her personal freedoms and where they become modified.

    The woman, is first an individual and an American with all of the enumerated rights identified and accorded to her by the founders in the Constitution. As an individual she has the right of free speech, the right of free association, freedom of religion etc, etc, those are HER rights as well as they are the rights of ALL of her FELLOW Americans, they are at this point as individuals equal related to their rights. This is primary and unchanging related to her being an individual.

    Now SHE modifies her status and chooses to open an open to the public business within the state that she lives, with all of the previously listed technical / legal encumberence’s and responsibilities. And the context of her business is a general flower store where she offers flowers for sale to the walk in public and she also supplies arranged flowers to the walk in public for various events including weddings.

    In her roll as the proprietor of her business she has created a situation where she has a power to deny service to her fellow citizens for cause. This power although narrow is still a power and along with power comes a responsibility not to abuse that power and arbitrarily apply that power in a subjective, biased and judgmental way that interrupts another’s individuals rights to freely participate in commerce. She is now superior because of this narrow power to deny.

    If as a potential customer you are somehow disruptive and not conducive to her business’s operation as judged by her own reasonable standards then you can be refused to be served and asked to leave. She can in a narrow way reasonably deny a fellow American their right to be treated equally in public commerce.

    Now where does her personal religious beliefs as an individual come into play here?

    I will assume you agree that we are all as individuals equal in our rights, which includes all individuals rights to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association etc. When she introduces her own personal religious based judgments into her public business operation she creates an arbitrary abuse of that narrow power that she possesses and the result is to deny an individual THEIR freedom to make a purchase from a public venue.

    So we as individuals are equal, she creates an entity that serves the public and a power to reasonably deny service, she uses her religion to arbitrarily serve one person who is not offensive to her but not another. She has chosen to introduce her religion into a situation where she is required to treat all as equals unless they meet a reasonable criteria to not be served and religious beliefs are not on that list.

    The solutions to the woman who operates the open to the public business is to cease causing this inequity and double standard against her fellow citizens based on her religious beliefs. She does not have to change her religious beliefs just how she treats her customers.

    The flower shop lady as an individual is equal to everyone else but becomes superior because of that narrow power that she is in possession of and when she claims offense and denies service to one when she is happy to supply it to another based solely on some aspect of her religion SHE has a problem.

    Her rights are not absolute, she is free to personally worship and believe as she pleases but may not use her religion in her public venue to effectively create inequity. She could modify her business model and have a generic wedding arrangement, could stop providing wedding arrangements, only supply walk in carry out business, what ever creative solution that she can come up with so as not to cross that line where her beliefs become the sole reason to deny service to someone who she would normally be happy to otherwise do business with.

    Now it will be argued that her religious beliefs are primary and are absolute as per her Constitutional rights! And I agree with that, I believe that she should worship whom ever and what ever she personally desires, but when she freely chooses to modify her personal life and attempts to apply those personal standards to her public business life she runs the risk of stepping on her fellow Americans and customers rights to THEIR individual freedoms.

    Her rights do not trump her fellow Americans / customers individual rights, they are equal.

    That’s all I got.

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