Judge considers consolidating lawsuits against Richland flower shop owner
A Benton County superior court judge will take the next few days to decide if two lawsuits against a Richland flower shop owner who refused her services for a same-sex wedding will be consolidated into one lawsuit.
This afternoon, an attorney representing Arlene's Flowers and the shop's owner Barronelle Stutzman, argued that the two lawsuits against Stutzman should be consolidated.
This issue stems from an incident back in March, when Stutzman refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding for Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.
The Attorney General's Office has filed a lawsuit against Stutzman, stating that she discriminated against the couple and violated the consumer protection act.
The couple has also filed a lawsuit against Stutzman - but Stutzman's attorneys say the two cases are very similar and should be combined.
Her attorney says at its heart, this case is about Washington's law against discrimination - not a private consumer protection act case.
But the couple's attorney disagrees.
"Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Freed were undeniably injured by Arlene's Flowers' discriminatory refusal to serve them. They were at a minimum, inconvenienced by Mr. Ingersoll having to make two trips to Arlene's Flowers, and then by both men having to be involved in arranging to buy flowers from other businesses, and having to travel to those other businesses" said Michael Scott, the couple's attorney.
Stutzman's attorney says consolidating the two trials would help avoid unnecessary costs and delays, and if there were two separate trials, the same evidence and same facts would be presented at both of them.
Judge Sal Mendoza says he wants to think about this decision very carefully.
He says he plans to send out a written notice of his decision sometime next week.