Friday, February 27, 2015

Christian Florist Upset She Cannot Legally Discriminate Against Gay Couple in Washington

I've avoided writing about this case out of Washington. It's the case of 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who refused to allow her flower shop to provide flowers for a long-time gay customer's wedding "because of my relationship with Jesus." He and his new husband were upset that they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientations. With the help of the ACLU, they filed a successful lawsuit against Stutzman's business for violating the state's anti-discrimination law. She owes them money and now she's making the rounds on various political and religious programs to complain about how her religious liberties were violated by this couple and by the state of Washington.

I only started getting heated about this case because of this blog article. It was written by The Marin Foundation's current executive director, Michael Kimpan. Another person commented that Kimpan missed the boat and said that now anyone can claim discrimination for anything. Jewish delis will be forced to sell non-kosher food. Muslim restaurants will be forced to serve pork. Cutlery salesmen will be forced to sell knives to cannibals and they won't be able to do anything when those cannibals use those products to carve up human flesh. Oh, and florists will be discriminating against single people for selling wedding bouquets.

All of this is bull. Public accommodation laws don't force restaurants, for example, to sell anything and everything. I cannot claim discrimination for going to McDonald's and requesting pizza because McDonald's -- unless they put it on their menu someday -- doesn't actually sell that product. The same goes for those other businesses. And the cutlery salesman can actually call the police if he has a suspicion that someone is killing and/or eating other people. That's illegal.

On the other hand, Stutzman's business actually sells -- among other products -- wedding flowers. If her customer was marrying a woman, she would gladly sell him wedding flowers. Because that's what she does for a living. But because he married another man, she discriminated against him. On the basis of sexual orientation. She admits it. Everyone admits it. They just don't like that she can't get away with it.

Washington updated its anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation. Why should we be surprised when a public business gets in trouble for discriminating against someone on the basis of sexual orientation? The same way they would get in trouble for discriminating on the basis of race or disability or gender? Otherwise, what was the purpose of this law?

Washington allows exemptions under its anti-discrimination law for certain types of religiously-based nonprofit businesses and institutions. Why doesn't this woman reclassify her business to comply with the law so that she can continue to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers, as well as presumably any other customer who doesn't fit within her specific religious perspective?

 It's not like wedding bouquets and arrangements for gay weddings are dramatically different than flowers for heterosexual weddings -- if at all.

Would her faith seriously be injured by preparing flowers for this wedding? How? Does she honestly endorse every wedding that she's ever worked with commercially or is she ultimately just bringing home a paycheck and keeping her business open for business? I'm curious how much she communicates her faith to her customers before each wedding? Surely she's worked with non-Christian customers on their weddings before.

Or is her faith only offended by same-sex marriages? Because, frankly, those are the only types of weddings where I see businesspeople ever claiming to be running commercial extensions of their personal faith as opposed to for-profit businesses that are open to the public.

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