Christian florist: Why I can't agree to provide service to gay weddings

She’s soft-spoken, has 23 grandkids, professes love for the gay customer who tried to hire her for his wedding and helped him find another florist when she politely declined (it was Washington’s AG, not the customer, who filed the discrimination complaint against her), and stands to lose her business and possibly her home if the state keeps coming after her for this. There may be more sympathetic spokesmen for religious freedom out there but offhand I can’t imagine one. The polling on whether businesses should be required by law to cater to gay weddings is mixed, but I wonder how long that’ll last if the Stutzman case breaks big nationally.

The state attorney general offered her a deal: Pay a $2,000 fine, agree to serve gay weddings in the future, and there’ll be no more litigation. No dice, says Barronelle Stutzman.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday that he would accept a $2,000 penalty, $1 for fees and costs, plus an agreement not to discriminate in the future and to end further litigation. “Before this case began, my office wrote to Ms. Stutzman, asking her to comply with state law. Had she agreed to no longer discriminate, my office would not have filed suit, and Ms. Stutzman would not have paid any costs, fees or penalties,” Ferguson said…

“Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs,” she wrote, adding that she prays Ferguson will reconsider his position.

Stutzman said she “kindly served (Ingersoll) for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process.”

Your move, Ferguson. Now, when was the last time a major Democrat got put on the spot with a question about whether shutting down an old lady’s flower business is a just punishment for her feeling duty bound as a Christian not to participate in a gay wedding? The media’s spent the past week being pressured by conservatives to explain why Scott Walker gets dumb gotcha questions about evolution and whether Obama’s a patriot while Hillary Clinton skates merrily away on questions like, say, when life begins. Here’s another one for the gotcha list. With whom does Hillary side, the left’s pro-gay base or the many, many swing-votin’ Christian grandmas out there in flyover country? Also, John McCormack‘s right that this isn’t really a gotcha. A “gotcha” isn’t just a question whose answer is likely to alienate some constituency no matter what answer is given, it’s a question that’s fundamentally trivial in that it has little bearing on public policy. It doesn’t matter whether Scott Walker thinks Obama’s a true blue patriot. It does matter potentially whether President Hillary thinks legal coercion should be used to compel religious believers to provide services to ceremonies that their faith regards as immoral. Let’s get her on the record. If progressives see gay rights as a zero sum game, Her Majesty should make that clear.

Note the very end here, by the way, when Stutzman’s lawyer refers to her freedom as an artist being infringed. That’s potentially a more effective argument in court than the religious freedom one is. Even if a judge doesn’t buy the “free exercise” claim, how do we justify the threat to Stutzman’s freedom of expression in forcing her to put together floral arrangements for an event about which she’d rather be silent? If the state can compel her to express herself artistically in that case, what other coercive forms of expression can it insist upon from businesses?