After 8 Years, Arlene’s Flowers Case ‘Settled,’ Owner to Retire
The owner of a long-running Richland Floral Shop plans to retire soon, following a settlement in the Arlene's Flowers Case. It involves a $5,000 payment to Robert Ingersoll, who triggered the multi-year string of lawsuits.
HOW LONG WAS THE CASE IN THE COURTS?
For the better part of 8 years, Arlene's was entangled in a series of lawsuits and appeals that eventually ended up at, but not decided by, the Supreme Court.
It began in 2013 when the ACLU brought a lawsuit against Barronnell Stutzman, owner-operator of Arlene's Flowers in Richland. Robert Ingersoll had sought her services to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding.
Utilizing her 1st Amendment Rights and other laws, Stutzman declined, saying it would violate her faith to show support for such a marriage. She went as far as to offer Ingersoll some alternatives, including other florists who would help. But that wasn't enough for him, and he and the ACLU sued. She even offered to sell him products and let his group make the arrangements themselves. But again, not good enough.
The rapidly went national, as an example of a person exercising their right of faith and freedom of expression. One of her attorneys likened this case to a musician being forced to compose and perform a piece of music at a wedding.
WA STATE AG GETS INVOLVED
Then the Attorney General's office got involved, AG Bob Ferguson suing under the Consumer Protection Act. This was the first time gender was ever a factor or wound up in court, voters had added sexual orientation to the Act nearly two decades earlier.
Finally, after numerous appeals and moving up the ladder, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated WA state's previous ruling that she broke the law. They kicked it back down to the state. Again in 2019, the WA State Supreme Court ruled against her.
Stutzman and the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a large group who were supporting her, asked for a petition to review in Sept. of that year.
Finally, July 2 with the court ending it's last term of the year before summer, declined to take the case, 3 justices saying they would review the state court's decision, but the others did not.
CASE ENDS ALL LEGAL MATTERS, PREVENTS CRIPPLING FEES
Specific details about how Stutzman's 'settlement' with Ingersoll came about were not released, but the $5,000 payment will prevent her from facing what would have been crippling legal fees (especially from the state) and basically ends the case.
She said in a news release that she plans to retire, and will have her employees continue to run the store and carry on the tradition. Stutzman, 77, said this in her letter:
“I am willing to turn the legal struggle for freedom over to others."
She certainly earned that right with the battle over the last 8 years.
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