The people of the Tri-Cities area in Washington State have spoken. And they have voted Arlene’s Flowers as the best florist of 2019.
Barronelle Stutzman is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, a local floral shop that has been operating for 42 years. And clearly, it has proven to be a community favorite. In the seven years since the local newspaper, Tri-City Herald, began publishing its People’s Choice Awards, Arlene’s Flowers has been named Best Florist four times.
“I’d like to think our customer service is a big key,” Barronelle told the Tri-City Herald.
And it is just that commitment to service that makes Arlene’s Flowers stand out. As the Tri-City Herald article points out, Barronelle and her staff spend extra time getting to know their customers. They find out what their hobbies and interests are. They then incorporate that into a floral design to create a unique arrangement for each customer.
Taking the time to get to know their customers and providing customized floral arrangements is likely why many customers come back – and it’s why their children and grandchildren continue to purchase floral arrangements at Arlene’s Flowers.
It’s also why customer Rob Ingersoll returned to the shop again and again over the span of nearly ten years.
During that time, Barronelle and Rob got to know each other well – and Barronelle loved to create the custom floral arrangements that Rob requested for all sorts of occasions in his life. Barronelle knew he was gay, and Rob knew she was religious.
But when Rob came in one day to request custom floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding, Barronelle knew that was one event that she could not use her artistic talents to celebrate because of her religious beliefs.
She gently explained this to Rob, and she offered him the names of three other florists that she knew would do a good job. He said he understood, they hugged, and he left the shop.
When the Washington State attorney general read about this interaction on social media, however, he decided to make an example of Barronelle – filing a lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. Later, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit against her on behalf of Rob and his partner.
While the state and the ACLU claim that Barronelle violated the law by declining to celebrate an event that violates her faith, the facts tell a different story.
Barronelle served Rob for nearly ten years – and would serve him another ten years if he walked into her shop today. She serves everyone who walks into Arlene’s Flowers. And she loves creating unique floral arrangements that reflect her clients’ personalities. That’s why Arlene’s Flowers is consistently voted one of the best local florists.
But Barronelle cannot express every message and celebrate every event that is asked of her. And that should be her right. No American should have to fear government punishment for living and working consistently with their beliefs.
Even if you disagree with Barronelle’s beliefs about marriage – beliefs that the Supreme Court has called “decent and honorable” – this should concern you.
After all, if the government has the power to punish an award-winning artist who has a clear record of serving all in her community well, who could be next?