Gay Couple Sues Arlene's Flowers
We continue to follow the controversy surrounding a Richland flower shop owner who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Today the gay couple involved and the Washington chapter of the ACLU files a discrimination lawsuit against Arlene's Flowers owner Barrononelle Stutzman.
All involved with this issue have a lot to say, including for the first time, Robert Ingersoll one of the men filing suit, spoke to KVEW.
According to the lawsuit, Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed spent thousands of dollars at Arlene's Flowers over the years.
The suit states Stutzman, knew the two men were in a longterm committed relationship.
Ingersoll says after a lot of soul searching, he and his partner decided to sue, believing that Stutzman broke state law - and they plan to pursue this all the way to state supreme court.
"It is scary but at the same time, it's the right thing to do," said Ingersoll.
When Stutzman refused to provide the flowers for their fall wedding because of her religious views, they were shocked.
"You develop a relationship with people and then something that you don't see comes from the sidelines, it really kinda knocks you over - takes your breath away," said Ingersoll.
But he also says they didn't plan on being at the center of this firestorm.
"We're very private people. We like being ourselves in our house and not being 'out'," said Ingersoll.
Their lawsuit was filed today in Benton County Superior Court with the help of the ACLU. Spokesperson Doug Honig says the suit is very clearcut, and a law was broken.
"Our state law against discrimination is very clear that if a business is open to serve the public, it has to serve all of its' customers equally, and even if an owner has deeply felt religious views, that doesn't give them grounds to treat couples differently on the basis of their sexual orientation," said Honig.
Meanwhile Stutzman's attorney JD Bristol says the issue here is Stutzman's right to religious freedom, and the state government has massively overstepped
"It appears that the state government is taking the position on a moral issue and forcing others who don't agree with that position to abide by their decision. It's clearly a violation of the constitution, and I think that the courts are going to appreciate our 1st Amendment rights and freedoms more than this - Washington's law against discrimination," said Bristol.
Ingersoll says he and Freed will do what it takes to protect their rights, especially because they don't want to see anyone else go through what they currently are.
"It's about doing what's right and it's about taking those next steps so it doesn't happen again. And both of us are very passionate about others' rights, especially when a clear law was broken," said Ingersoll.
The ACLU says financial penalties and lawyer's fees would be up to the court.
Stutzman's attorney says they also plan to go "all the way" with this case, and he clearly wants to take it to federal court where it would become a Constitutional - 1st Amendment issue.
The Washington State Attorney General's Office also filed a lawsuit against Stutzman and her shop on April 9, 2013.