A flower shop in Washington state was fined $1,000 after it did not help a same-sex couple, but the fight apparently isn’t over. Although the business was found to be in violation of the state's Consumer Protection Act, it has been winning support -- in the form of donations -- from some members of the public.
The business, Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, has collected more than $80,000 through a GoFundMe.com online campaign from people who want to help protect the shop owner's “livelihood,” the Seattle Times reported Saturday. Although the campaign was launched in February, many donations did not arrive until after so-called Religious Freedom bills advanced in both Indiana and Arkansas last week. (After public outcry, both Indiana and Arkansas adjusted their bills to clarify that businesses would not be permitted to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Indiana did so after its original bill became law, and Arkansas did so before its bill became law.)
“It’s about freedom, not money,” Baronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers, wrote in a letter to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.” Stutzman said she believes that serving gay couples goes against her Southern Baptist religious beliefs, the Associated Press added.
But despite Stutzman’s stand, a Benton County Superior Court judge determined that all couples -- gay or straight -- must be served by local businesses.
Ferguson endorsed that view: “Our state laws protect the rights of Washingtonians to be treated equally -- regardless of our race, sex, creed, sexual orientation or other characteristics -- and I will continue to vigorously uphold these laws,” he wrote.
The support that Arlene’s Flowers has received is similar to that of Memories Pizza, an Indiana restaurant that shut down after its owners said they would not comply with the state’s religious freedom law. In Memories' case, more than $840,000 was raised in two days.
The backing that Arlene’s Flowers and Memories Pizza have seen is different than the reactions that celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and George Takei have encouraged. Cyrus, 22, asked for her followers to call Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence an "a--hole," while Takei, 77, asked his fans to boycott the state.
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