In what may be the first such case, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding on the basis of her religious beliefs. Such lawsuits have been long and loudly predicted by anti-gay groups who regularly raised the issue during testimonies before state legislatures across the nation.
Dominic Holden reports at Seattle’s Stranger:
The case is set to emerge as the first major test of anti-discrimination protections since Washington State voters legalized same-sex marriage last fall. It is also a rare—if not unprecedented—instance of the government initiating a discrimination suit. With the florist’s lawyers apparently itching for a fight, the case seems poised to reach the state supreme court, or even federal courts, as a test of conservative legal defenses in the name of religious liberty and moral conscience.
Ferguson acknowledged in an interview with The Stranger today that filing the lawsuit this way is unprecedented; anti-discrimination suits must be brought by the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the aggrieved party. But as of this week, neither had taken action. Ferguson says he has legal authority to file the suit as a consumer protection case because the alleged discrimination occurred “in a consumer setting.”
Ferguson had previously offered to let the florist sign a contract agreeing not to discriminate in the future, but that offer was refused. Lawyers for the florist contend that the state is violating the First Amendment and have vowed to take the case to federal court. They write in a letter to Ferguson: “Although gay ‘marriage’ may be legal in Washington for the time being, the concept offends the conscious [sic] of Ms. Stutzman and many others in Washington.” Ferguson acknowledges that he may be in for a “lengthy legal battle.”
And so another martyr to the Christianist movement is born. We can expect many furious responses from the hate industry this week, most of which will doubtlessly open with, “We TOLD you this would happen!” Regardless of the suit’s merits, it seems like this should have at least been put off until we get the rulings from the Supreme Court. (Tipped by JMG reader Matthew)