Expert Says Attorney General’s Action Against Arlene’s Flowers Could Go to State Supreme Court
The Washington Consumer Protection Act has been on the books for a number of years. After voters approved gay marriage last year provisions in it will be put to the test.
First, as reported by The Stranger online blog, it is unprecedented for an attorney general to initiate such an action without a complaint filed. Normally in Washington state, such discrimination cases must go through the Human Rights Commission — or the injured party must file a complaint. Neither has occurred.
Mr. Ingersoll, the long-time customer of Arlene’s who started the furor by complaining on Facebook after the shop declined to supply flowers to his same-sex wedding, did not file any actions with the state.
The Stranger, based out of Seattle, has been the first media outlet to offer an in-depth examination of the different sides of the issue. It reported Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the following about the case:
Right now she’s getting away with it, and that sends the wrong message to all the businesses around the state.”
Critics are already blasting Ferguson for what they claim is an attempt to make an example of Arlene’s Flowers to prevent future events. Many are asking if this tramples on the religious and spiritual freedoms of business owners. Part of Stutzman’s argument against the state is as follows (from The Stranger):
Arranging flowers is an act of personal expression, and as such, any restriction on how and where she sells flowers arrangements infringes on her First Amendment right to free speech.
Her attorneys went on to say:
The state cannot require a florist to express appreciation for, or acceptance of gay ‘marriage’ any more than the state can require a musician to write a song about it, or an artist to paint a picture.
Her lawyers have also told the AG’s office that any lawsuit will be met with an “immediate challenge in federal court.”
Apparently a number of national non-profit organizations have already lined up to lend logistical and financial support to the Richland business, including the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
Ferguson countered by saying:
She runs a business, and you can’t discriminate when running your business, so it is appropriate for the attorney general to bring a consumer protection action.
However, Ferguson acknowledges, they may be in for a lengthy legal battle.