How far would you go to take a stand for your beliefs? What would you be willing to give up?
These are questions Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman has had to answer since 2013. That is when she declined to create floral arrangements celebrating the same-sex wedding of a friend and longtime customer because it conflicted with her religious beliefs. Now, Barronelle finds herself in the middle of a nearly six-year lawsuit and risks losing everything—her business, her life savings, and even her home.
But Barronelle is not easily intimidated. Her strong Christian faith gives her the strength she needs to stand up for her beliefs.
“You have to make a stand somewhere in your life on what you believe and what you don’t believe,” she said. “It was just a time I had to take a stand.”
Read the details of Barronelle’s case below.
Who: Barronelle Stutzman
Barronelle is the last person you would expect to be entangled in a lawsuit. She is an unassuming, sweet, 74-year-old grandmother and floral artist. Barronelle lovingly serves everyone in her community regardless of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation.
She happily served her friend and longtime customer Rob Ingersoll for nearly a decade. But when Rob asked her to create floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding, Barronelle knew that this was a request she could not accept. As a devout Christian, Barronelle believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. She could not use her talents to create a floral art that celebrates a view of marriage contrary to this belief. Barronelle cares deeply for Rob. But after much thought and prayer, she made the decision to decline Rob’s request.
Barronelle explained her decision to Rob, the two hugged, and he left her shop. It should have been over, but then the Attorney General of the State of Washington read about Barronelle’s decision on social media and decided to make an example of her.
The Washington State Attorney General sued Barronelle, not just in her role as a business owner, but in her personal capacity as well. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also filed a lawsuit against Barronelle, similarly naming her in her personal capacity. This means that if Barronelle loses her cases, she could lose everything—not only the floral business that her mother started, but also her retirement savings and even her home.
Meanwhile, a coffee shop in Seattle expelled and openly mocked the faith of Christian customers, but the Attorney General did nothing. There is clearly a double standard about what claims the state does and does not pursue. Barronelle is being targeted even though she serves everyone. That’s why she continues to appeal her case.
When: April 2013—present
When Rob walked out of her shop in 2013, Barronelle had no idea she was about to embark on a years-long legal battle. But after the Attorney General of Washington sued her in April 2013 that’s exactly what happened.
Barronelle’s case went to the Washington Supreme Court in 2016. And in February 2017, that court said that the government can force her—and other creative professionals in the state—to create custom art celebrating events with which she disagrees.
In July 2017, Alliance Defending Freedom petitioned the United States Supreme Court to hear Barronelle’s case. In June 2018, the Supreme Court vacated the Washington Supreme Court’s decision and asked it to reconsider Barronelle’s case in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.
Barronelle’s case is now back before the Washington Supreme Court.
Where: Richland, WA
Barronelle’s shop, Arlene’s Flowers, serves the Richland, WA area.
Why: The government should not force anyone to create art that violates their beliefs.
People of good will should be able to disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage. But the State of Washington is targeting Barronelle because it disagrees with her personal beliefs. The State wants to force Barronelle to use her artistic talents to express a message that she disagrees with.
This is not a choice any American should have to make. The First Amendment exists to allow every individual to live according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment. That’s why Barronelle is standing strong and continuing to fight this unfair lawsuit brought by her state.
Bottom Line: Views may change, but the First Amendment does not.
Views about important issues like marriage may change. But the First Amendment’s enduring promise is that people of good will are free to live out their beliefs without government hostility or punishment. That is why you can support Barronelle’s freedom no matter what you believe about marriage.