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Tri-Cities INBA members win discrimination lawsuit against Kennewick flowershop
 JULIE SARACENO/MISSY MOO STUDIO
Rob Ingersoll (left) and Curt Freed. JULIE SARACENO/MISSY MOO STUDIO

A discrimination case that began in 2013 came to a close last Wednesday in favor of Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed, two INBA members living in the Tri-Cities. The couple filed a lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers, a Kennewick flower shop, after the owner refused them service for their wedding.

Although the two had been buying flowers from Arlene’s for more than a decade, Stutzman, the shop’s owner, said her “relationship with Jesus Christ” precluded her from arranging flowers for a same-sex wedding or allowing any of her employees to do so. Stutzman’s attorney’s said she declined her services not because of the couple’s sexual orientation but because of her religious views on marriage

“Religious motivation does not excuse compliance with the law,” wrote Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom. He ruled that the  business had violated state consumer protection laws which prohibit any discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

The lawsuit was filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who stated that the law is clear; “If you  choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same services to same-sex couples.” Weddings comprised about 3% of business for Arlene’s Flower Shop in the five years leading up to the trial, according to court documents. Stutzman is now declining wedding services altogether.

Curt freed, a former INBA board member representing the Tri-Cities said that he is relieved that the case is over and thankful for the community support he and Ingersoll have received. “Organizations like INBA are more important to us today than ever.  Providing a wide array of visible allies is really at the heart of a thriving community.  Thank you to every INBA member for all you do.”

“After nearly two years of waiting, Rob and I are very happy with the judge’s ruling,” said Freed. This is the first anti-discrimination case based on sexual orientation for the State of Washington since same-sex marriage became legal in 2012 through Referendum 74.

The two were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which agreed with Atty. Gen. Ferguson and Judge Ekstrom’s ruling. “All along, we believed we had the law – and history – on our side.  This was an important step for us to take in an attempt to keep others in Washington State from experiencing similar discrimination.”

 

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