US: Owner of florist sued for refusing same-sex wedding files lawsuit against state

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The owner of a florist which is the subject of two lawsuits for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, has filed a lawsuit against Washington state, claiming her religious beliefs are being violated.

The US state of Washington’s attorney general last month filed a lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers, which refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding, despite having served them previously.

The consumer protection action filed seeks $2000 (£1300), in fines, as well as requiring Arlene’s Flowers to comply with the state’s consumer protection laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has also filed a lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers, run by florist Barronelle Stutzman.

Attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal ministry, filed the new lawsuit on behalf of Stutzman on Thursday, at Benton County Superior Court, reports the Associated Press.

Senior Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt, released in a statement saying: “Everyone knows that plenty of florists are willing to assist in same-sex ceremonies, so the state has no reason to force Barronelle to violate her deeply held beliefs.”

Stutzman told the longtime customer that the shop could not provide the service “because of [her] relationship with Jesus Christ.” She said she believed that “biblically” that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Facebook campaigns on both sides of the argument have started, some condemning Arlene’s for refusing the service, others defending the owner, and saying she should be allowed to discriminate because of her religious beliefs.

Washington state legalized equal marriage in November, and despite an increase in support for it, has remained divided over the issue.