Washington State Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Anti-Gay Florist’s Appeal

Florist Barronelle Stutzman

After refusing to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding in 2013, Barronelle Stutzman was found to have violated Washington state’s public accommodation laws and fined $1,000.

Stutzman has appealed the decision to the state’s supreme court, and the court has agreed to hear the appeal:

Washington’s Supreme Court says it will hear an appeal of a Richland flower shop owner who ran into legal trouble for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding in 2013. The court issued a decision Wednesday saying it would hear the case of Barronelle Stutzman, the proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers. Last year, Stutzman was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for refusing to provide flowers for the wedding of a long-time customer. The great-grandmother has since become a national figure, testifying before state lawmakers in Indiana and Kansas.

It’s worth noting that Stutzman received a windfall of over $170,000 from a crowdfunding campaign via supporters.

To cover a $1,000 fine.

Supporters Launch Crowdfunding Campaign For Anti-Gay Colorado Baker

Baker Jack Phillips refused to bake wedding cake for same-sex marriage

As we’ve seen in the past with other businesses who chose to not serve LGBTs, the friends of a Colorado baker have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help offset the penalties the baker has incurred by violating the state’s public accommodation laws:

“Cake artist” Jack Phillips has said his bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, has lost more than a third of its receipts since he stopped making all wedding cakes while the case makes its way through the legal system.

“We hope it will relieve some of the financial pressure on Jack,” his brother-in-law, Jim Sander, said of the new fundraising effort in a phone interview Friday with The Daily Signal. “A business that has a 10 percent loss is a big deal in the Wall Street Journal. So a 40 percent loss is a big hit.”

Sander said the “crowdfunding” campaign, through the website Continue to Give, a Christian-oriented service, went online Thursday afternoon—hours after the Colorado Court of Appeals decided Phillips and his business must provide cakes for gay marriages. The mission: Financially support Phillips, 59, and “protect his freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” The goal: Raise $200,000.

At this writing, six percent (or about $12K) has been raised by the campaign.

Colorado Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Anti-Gay Baker

The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips violated the state’s public accommodation law when he refused to sell a gay couple a wedding cake in 2012.

From ABC7 in Denver:

Phillips’ attorneys asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the ruling, arguing the decision violates Phillips’ First Amendment rights. The attorneys argued he was not discriminating against same-sex couples, but rather refusing based on their intended conduct.

Court of Appeals justices, however, pointed out that same-sex couples are the only kind likely to engage in same-sex marriage.

“Masterpiece’s distinction, therefore, is one without a difference,” Thursday’s decision states. “But for their sexual orientation, Craig and Mullins would not have sought to enter into a same-sex marriage, and but for their intent to do so, Masterpiece would not have denied them its services.”

At the time, Phillips said that while he’d be happy to make the couple brownies or a birthday cake, due to his deeply religious beliefs he could not make a wedding cake for a gay wedding.

Maryland DJ Refuses To Provide Services For Gay Man’s 60th Birthday Party

(Graphic via Washington Post)

Well, this will get interesting.

First we had wedding photographers and bakeries refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Same-sex marriage was a bridge too far for those folks, and they could not see themselves as “participating” in a same-sex wedding.

Now, however, a Maryland DJ has refused to work at a birthday party being thrown for a 60 year old gay man. No wedding. No unions. Just a party where gay people might be.

And Ultrasound Deejays has a written company policy stating, “we will not be involved in any event involving homosexual celebration or activity. We follow biblical morality.”

More from the Washington Post:

The national debate about how to balance religious conscience protections and gay equality flared in the large, mostly liberal Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery County Friday, when Dani Tsakounis tried to help her brother hire Ultrasound Deejays for a party. An owner of the business told Tsakounis he would not provide the DJ because Tsakounis’s brother, a Silver Spring therapist, is married to another man and the birthday party they are hosting is for their 60-year-old roommate, who is also gay.

“I just said, ‘We won’t be able to do it, we’re a Christian organization and it would go against our faith, I’m sorry,’” Michael Lampiris, co-owner of Ultrasound Deejays, said Friday.

Tom Tsakounis, 46, was so upset when his sister told him that he posted the news on his neighborhood listserv, prompting calls of sympathy from neighbors. He also registered a complaint with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission, which hears cases of alleged discrimination.

Maryland state law has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation — which includes businesses “offering goods, services, entertainment” the law says — since 2001.

The article goes on to say that Lampiris admits that he’s turned down bridal parties just because he heard lesbians might be attending.

According to reports, Lampiris didn’t sound very concerned about breaking the law, though, stating, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Oregon Judge Suggests $135K Fine For Anti-Gay Bakers

Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, has been fined $135,000 in a decision by an administrative law judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Judge Alan McCullough issued his proposed fines today. The amount is not final, however. The State Labor Commissioner will have final say on the fine amount.

The controversy began in January 2013 when Aaron Klein turned away Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother at a cake-tasting appointment they had set up with Melissa Klein. Melissa Klein was not at the shop that day.

In August 2013, the women complained to BOLI. The agency conducted an investigation and in January 2014 brought charges that the Kleins had unlawfully discriminated against the couple because of their sexual orientation.

In a statement Friday, BOLI said: “The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the Complainants. Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.”

The Kleins have already set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay the fine. Over 12,000 was raise in less than three hours.

Pat Robertson: Equal Treatment Under The Law For Gays Is A “Nail In The Coffin” For America

Pat Robertson tells a viewer of The 700 Club saying that laws that make it illegal for businesses to deny service to customers on the basis of sexual orientation amount are “an outrageous invasion of religious liberty and a trampling of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

“I think the courts that forced that, the officials that forced it, were dead wrong and it’s just one more nail in the coffin of the morality of this nation,” Robertson said.

(via Right Wing Watch)

AFA Tries To Re-Frame Case Against Anti-Gay Washington State Florist

I received an email “alert” from the anti-gay American Family Association today extolling the woes of the Washington state florist (and grandmother!) who was found guilty of violating the state’s public accommodation laws.

Note how AFA puts their “spin” on things:

A state judge ruled this week that Washington floral artist and grandmother Barronelle Stutzman must provide full support for wedding ceremonies that are contrary to her faith.

The judge said the 70-year-old grandmother may lose not only her business, but also her home and savings because she lives her life and operates her business according to her beliefs.

Note again how they let you know she’s a grandmother – as if grandmother’s should get to break the law…

The state judge ruled Stutzman’s business could not discriminate against a specific group of people.

Stutzman isn’t in this predicament because she “operates her business according to her beliefs.” She VIOLATED a state law that protects citizens from discrimination. Period.

From the Huffington Post:

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom found that the florist violated consumer protections when she wouldn’t sell flowers for the same-sex wedding of a longtime customer because of her religious beliefs. The couple was protected by the Washington Law Against Discrimination, which prohibits bias based on sexual orientation, the court ruled.

Plus, the AFA exaggerates the fines Stutzman may be required to pay. According to the state attorney general’s office, she may be required to pay $2,000 per violation. Not exactly her entire “business, home and savings.”

The point of this post is to expose how these groups like to frame and exaggerate their arguments so they can pretend to be rational.

Washington Florist Found Guilty Of Discriminating In Public Accomodations Lawsuit

Washington state florist Arlene’s Flowers has been found guilty of discrimination according to the state’s public accommodation  and consumer protection laws.

From ABC News:

A florist in Washington state who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated state consumer protection and anti-discrimination law, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented the couple, welcomed the ruling.

“The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples,” Ferguson said.

The law allows for penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, as well as legal fees. The state will likely seek those against Stutzman individually as well as her business, said Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

New York State Wedding Venue Fights To Ignore Public Accommodation Laws

The anti-gay Heritage Foundation is helping these “for-profit” business owners try to portray their violation of the New York State Accommodations Act as a threat to their “religious liberties.”

If you watch the video, note the carefully crafted language(clearly coached by their lawyer) that gets a bit slippery: Cynthia Gifford repeatedly refers to the property in question as “the farm” or “our home.” The Gifford’s farm is the site of their business, not just their place of abode.

By referring to the property where the business is located their “farm,” the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm make themselves and the property very “homey” and all that.  Very nice.  But it is a business; a business which obtained a business license from the state of New York and therefore must follow the laws of the state.

Don’t operate a wedding venue if folks who can legally marry – like gay people – can’t get married there. Businesses can’t get to choose which customers they want to accomodate.

The New York State laws regarding public accommodation are clear, and you can’t run a wedding venue and decide which legal weddings you do or don’t want to based on sexual orientation of the customers. It’s against the law. Period.

And by the way, while some may argue over whether sexual orientation is or isn’t a “chosen” trait, choice of religion IS chosen. For some folks, they may change from one religion to another to suit a marriage arrangement or some other situation. Choice (of freedom from) religion is a choice. Many experts would tell you that sexual orientation is not. As a gay man myself, I am confident I did not “choose” to be straight or gay. I simply am gay.

One last thing: the lawyer and Cynthia Gifford, in another use of slippery language, seem to insinuate that recording the initial conversation between one of the women looking to book the venue with Ms. Gifford was somehow illegal or nefarious. The laws of New York state make it a crime to record to record a telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05.)  The person recording the call WAS consenting by making the recording.

Eleven states have laws that require “two-party consent” – but New York state is not one of them.

Watch the video below. It’s very warm and fuzzy, and you may feel for the woman. But they broke the law of New York state. Whether or not she is likable, or you are Christian, doesn’t play into the fact that the law was broken.

Colorado baker says he’d rather go to jail than bake same-sex wedding cake

The Colorado baker who was found guilty of discrimination on public accommodation laws says he feels forced to participate in same-sex weddings were he to bake a cake for a gay or lesbian couple’s ceremony.

Jack Phillips lawyer falsely puts out a red flag in the interview that people in Phillips’ position face jail time if they refuse to treat all Americans equally. The fact is there are no criminal sanctions in any state for such violations. Phillips faces a fine and possibly losing his business license if he were to refuse to pay the penalty.