A Christian florist who was at the center of an eight-year-old legal battle over LGBT anti-discrimination laws has reached a settlement that avoids exorbitant fees.
Most importantly, she says, the settlement keeps her conscience intact and allows her to pass the “legal torch” to other creative artists involved in the same legal struggle.
Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, was sued in 2013 after she declined to design an arrangement celebrating a same-sex wedding. The Washington state Supreme Court twice ruled that she violated an anti-discrimination law. Although the U.S. Supreme Court gave her a brief legal victory in 2018, it opted this summer not to get involved again. The high court’s inaction meant that the Washington Supreme Court’s decision stood.
As part of the settlement with the gay couple and the ACLU, Stutzman agreed to withdraw a pending petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to re-hear the case. She also agreed to pay the couple $5,000 – a relatively small amount in the legal realm.
The settlement allows her to retire and for her shop to stay open so other employees can operate it.
Stutzman, 77 and a great-grandmother, said she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court sides with religious liberty in a future, similar case. Such a case already is pending before the court in 303 Creative v. Elenis – in which a Christian web designer is challenging a state law that could force her to promote a same-sex wedding.
Stutzman said she’s “passing my legal torch on to other artists” and “thanking God for the victories He’s so graciously given me.”
“I am willing to turn the legal struggle for freedom over to others. At age 77, it’s time to retire and give my business to someone else,” she said. “I’ve never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. … If you’ve prayed for me, thank you. If you’ve hated me, well … I’ve prayed for you. And as my case closes, I pray that God will give you the freedom of your conscience, protect your right to make your own choices, whatever they may be, and give us all grace to be patient, forgiving, and respectful of each other.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented her.
“She’s inspired millions of others in their own public and personal battles to live their faith without government interference,” said ADF general counsel Kristen Waggoner.
Photo courtesy: ©Alliance Defending Freedom
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.