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Ross and Burbank


960 roses AP
In Richland Washington, a florist named Baronelle Stutzman, who for years has done wedding arrangements, never imagined there'd be any such thing as gay marriage. (AP Photo/file)

Where have all the flowers gone?

As Americans, we believe in a free market: except when we don't.

In Richland Washington, a florist named Baronelle Stutzman, who for years has done wedding arrangements, never imagined there'd be any such thing as gay marriage. Or that two of regular male customers would one day ask her to provide flowers not for Mother's Day, or a birthday, but for their wedding. Which is when she told them I'm fine with gay people, but as a Christian I cannot participate in a gay wedding.

And now she could become one of the first test cases pitting religious freedom against the free market:

"She's violating our consumer protection laws," said Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington State.

He says he didn't want to go to court. His office even sent her a polite letter.

"Asking her to simply agree to no longer withhold selling flowers to gay couples who wish to get married," said Ferguson.

But she hired a lawyer instead. And she'll need one - because not only is the AG suing- so are the two gay grooms, with the backing of the ACLU.

It all raises many questions.

Should a car dealer be free to turn away someone he thinks is unfit to drive? Should a liquor store refuse to sell to a known drunk? Should fast food joints turn fat people away? Should gun dealers turn away people who give off a bad vibe? Does the free market mean merchants are free to judge you?

But for the attorney general, THIS case is pretty simple:

"Bottom line is this, if you have a business, you serve flowers, you serve to the public. You can't discriminate based on a small set of criteria, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation. Once that's on the books our job is to apply that law," he said.

Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.

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Comments (84)


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  • Chuck Gould wrote...
    "Should a liquor store refuse to sell to a known drunk?"
    Probably not....but as most people are aware there is already a law that makes it illegal for a bartender to serve alcohol to a patron who "appears intoxicated".

    There are either a whole lot of blind bartenders, or the standard for "appearing intoxicated" must involve falling off your stool. :-)

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  • Yadda1 wrote...
    That law
    Also applies to cashiers.
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  • SeattleNative wrote...
    She isn't denying service based on any of those protected classes listed
    She's sold to them before, so she doesn't discriminate against homosexuals.

    Yet Bobby Ferguson wants to take away her First Amendment rights which, based on a federal court's ruling on pharmacists/Plan B, has been found to be unconstitutional.

    Bobby, stop your political pandering and work on the real issues that the people of our State have to deal with.

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  • Pete in Seattle wrote...
    THis may be the worst news
    Special interest groups including GLBT may find this causes a backlash that hurts their cause in the long run. In effect they are forcing people to agree with things they don't believe in. Selling a physical product is one thing, but providing a service is another. What could happen in the long run is that all laws that protect special groups could become unconstitutional.
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @seattleNative
    Huh? How is inentionally not providing a service to a gay person NOT denying service based on one of the protected classes? She is not being required to change per beleif that gay marriage is wrong. She is merely being required to provide flowers for a wedding - just like she does for any other wedding.
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  • po_guy wrote...
    The best thing that could happen
    is if the "protected species" of homo would go extinct. What a crybaby bunch of perverted embicilic babies. They did not do what I asked, wah wah wah...now somebody needs to sue them for me, wah wah wah...
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  • jstumbo wrote...
    So if a woman who is a neo nazi
    wants her to provide flowers in the shape of a swastika for her wedding, they could not refuse? After all, women are a protected class, so they are refusing service to a person in one of the protected classes. That is the difference. They are not refusing to sell stuff to gays, they sell to them many times before. They are just refusing to provide the flowers for their wedding. A wedding that they do not agree with.
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  • BeenThere wrote...
    Mr. AG, is this just about selling flowers or being required to participate in the ceremony?
    Can they be separate events? Is this owner forced to take ALL wedding requests or just from gay couples, according to the AG. Btw, is this couple really trying to extort $5,000 in lieu of a lawsuit and is this type of activity illegal or only permitted for protected classes?
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @BeenThere
    1) providing flowers for a wedding is NOT 'participating in the ceremony' 2) it is entirely common for lawyers to request to settle for a dollar amount with the threat of going to trial if the other party doesn't settle. It may sound odd, even a little like blackmail and extortion, but it's legal and it's done every day for all kinds of civil lawsuits.
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  • BeenThere wrote...
    FMS....This type of extortiion may be legal but unjust in this situation.
    Using someones protected status as a means of gain is unjust. They were not harmed and ddid not suffer financial loss. I find it hard to be sympathetic towards this couple. Also, participating in the ceremony means coordination, delivery, set up, removal. A lot of time devoted to the event. She is being asked to be directly involved in the wedding, there's no way she can't, unless she just sells them the flowers and they do the rest, and that may have been an option. Providing flowers is an " involved" process and she chose not to participate in the event. She has sold them flowers in the past, the differance now is she's being asked to also participate. She is discriminating against the EVENT not the people. If a heterosexual couple came in to buy flowers for their friends gay wedding, she could also decline to enter into contract of service, not necessarily product. Is it illegal to discriminate against certain events? I guess that is what the courts will now have to determine.
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @beenThere
    I can't argue that sometimes that method comes across as -or indeed is- unjust, but that's a personal judgement and others may deem it differently than you do. She is not being asked to be directly involved any more in the wedding than a clothing store is 'directly involved' in a funeral. BOTH supply goods and nothing more. If I'm wrong - tell me how SHE is personally and directly involved - beyond delivering flowers to a location. She isn't. She's not being asked to do anything more than deliver flowers. Using your analogy, then if I was into catering food, and I refused to provide food at your Christian prayer neeting because my religion told me that Christians are icky, would you use the same excuse to allow me to NOT provide my service? I would be no more involved in your Christian prayer breakfast than the flower shop and it's owner would be in a gay wedding.
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  • BeenThere wrote...
    FMS...Florists don't just supply product. They play a role in the planning of the ceremony.
    A wedding is a huge deal, not exactly equivalent to a "prayer meeting". And how do you know she hasn't provided flowers for a gay persons prayer meeting?
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  • BeenThere wrote...
    This is about the State of Washington prosecuting an individual for what they believe.
    It violates her conscience, her relationship with her God. The State will punish her unless she commits an act that forces her to jeapardize that relationship. For many, prison would be better. And are we to the point where we inprison those that hold such a widely held belief. Do we use police power to force compliance now? Maybe so.
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  • jstumbo wrote...
    I imagine that if you refused...
    then the prayer meeting would just go down the street to someone else and respect your right to not sell to them. I doubt there would be a lawsuit. I doubt the AG would get involved. Most Christian prayer meetings don't have an agenda to force their beliefs on people and to make them participate in their prayer meetings.
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  • BeenThere wrote...
    jstumbo....The AG understands this has political implications, this isn't about "consumer protection".
    The preferred protected class dujour gets special treatment because the lgbt lobbiests are powerful in this state. A complaint was not filed by the "injured party" afterwards but it didn't matter, All that was needed was a Facebook post. And the AG realizes this is political gold in a liberal mine and decides to make an example of this women. You're correct, this is about an agenda. It's also about politics, lawyers and strong armed extortion and not some phony consumer protection statement by the AG.
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  • po_guy wrote...
    Before I pay ANY queer
    money through extortion or lawsuit, I would shut the doors of my business. Close up tighter than Dick's hatband!!!
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  • mnpat wrote...
    The real story here is
    KIRO's staff Is not going to put up with anyone or anything getting in the way of making sure the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered community is not in the news every week. It's not about just reporting news, it's all about creating news so we all will be easier to handle in the world of the rainbow coalition.
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @mnpat
    Then why do you waste your time reading these 'propoganda' articles?
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  • mnpat wrote...
    FormerMarineSgt
    Because in absence of a impartial press which is supposed to keep an eye on games our government plays, I have now gotten to the point where I feel a need to watch the supposed watchdogs. This is what happens when the media and politicians sleep in the same bed....and your Buddy Mr. Ross is a love child of that union.
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  • maplefish wrote...
    Mnpat
    Brilliant and Bravo!
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  • jstumbo wrote...
    I imagine...
    that there is some news director or something that is either gay, or has sympathies with the gay community. There has been a concerted effort by the gay community to get into positions where they can sway public opinion and policy.
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  • Shake Plissken wrote...
    Gender Confusion Disorder
    Think about it.
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  • Mavila wrote...
    "Once that's on the books our job is to apply that law,"
    There's a little law called the first amendment that trumps your little law, Mr. Ferguson.

    Why are you not fighting to protect the Constitution of the US?

    Oh, that's right. The same reason why Dave Ross won't advocate for it either.

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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @mavila
    I wonder if you'd be acting the same way if this was a Christian or a Republican that was refused service because of ther beliefs....... And the problem with using the 'constitutional rights' arguement is who's rights get to be more 'right' than the other persons? It's a two way street - your rights are no more right than my rights. If we conflict in our use of our rights, we either work it out cooperatively OR we refer to existing laws to determine who gets what. In this case, the law says that the flower shop must follow the anti-discrimination laws.
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  • Mavila wrote...
    FormerMarineSgt...
    It is quite obvious whose rights prevail in this instance.

    Freedom of religious expression is guaranteed under the first amendment to the US Constitutionn (Washington State law notwithstanding).

    No one has a right to force someone to make them a flower arrangement when to do so violates their religious expression. Particularly if it's a non-essential type of service which is readily replaceable by another vendor.

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  • The Dude Abides wrote...
    Mavila, you're mistaken
    This woman can have all the religious freedom she wants in her personal life. She can worship, she can protest gay weddings, she can judge sinners...whatever floats her boat.

    However, the moment she becomes a licensed business owner, she is agreeing to comply with the laws and ordinances applicable to businesses within her area. Local zoning laws, tax laws (county, state, and federal), and business operation laws all apply to her business. That's the trade off for being a business owner. You can't discriminate against a protected class of people as a business, which in this case is what she's doing.

    This sounds insensitive, but it actually creates order. Think of all the different religious factions that are out there, and what they would be able to get away with if practicing business owners could discriminate against anyone, based on their religion. There are still religious sects out there that believe that white people are the only true "people", and that minorities are not even real people. Should they be allowed to refuse service because their religion says so? No. I'm an atheist, but I shouldn't be allowed to refuse service to deity worshippers, simply because I don't believe in their ways.

    Let the woman practice her beliefs on her own time, but don't let it interfere with how her business treats her customers.

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  • Mavila wrote...
    She is abiding by the...
    First Amendment of the US Constitution which trumps all of the other laws you list. There is no provision that your freedom of religious expression stops when you start a business nor does it apply only behind the church doors.

    As for the rest of your post the US Constitution, as far as I'm aware, is silent on the matter of a business refusing to serve a customer due to the customer's religious faith. However, I'm sure all states have laws prohibiting that.

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  • maplefish wrote...
    Dude
    Post of Day! A great example would be the Muslim market owner who sells pork to homosexuals. They are both strictly forbidden by the Koran, yet the marketer keeps his beliefs to himself in order to keep his business alive. In hind site, the florist should have just kept her mouth shut and told the couple she was too booked up and given the couple the number of the florist down the street....
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  • jstumbo wrote...
    So I can go to a muslim woman doctor...
    and if she refuses to take me on as a patient, and give me a hernia check, then I can sue her, and the government can sue her for me? Or maybe I just decide that I don't want to screw with her beliefs and go on about my life and go to a different doctor?
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @Mavilla...
    "No one has a right to force someone to make them a flower arrangement when to do so violates their religious expression. Particularly if it's a non-essential type of service which is readily replaceable by another vendor." --- that is a false statement. Proof? A resteraunt CANNOT discriminate against blacks 'simply because they can go to another resteraunt, therefore it's not a non-essential type of service'.
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  • Mavila wrote...
    You're conflating two completely separate legal issues, FMS.
    On the one hand you have the case of a restaurant owner refusing to serve blacks because of their race. There is no Constitutional principle at play there - there is no Constitutional right of the owner to do so, nor is there a Constitutional prohibition. It's silent on the matter. You do have the federal Civil Rights Act and a multitude of other state laws that prohibit such practices, however.

    On the other hand, the florist has an unequivocal Constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religious expression.

    These are two entirely different legal principles.

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  • po_guy wrote...
    Queers do not
    have special rights...well, I guess I am wrong about that, but they shouldn't...it is a species that should be extinct.
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  • GetReal4me wrote...
    Hmmmm Interesting analysis, Mavila
    But I have to disagree because you have to have a basis for your beliefs. To just believe something is not enough. Christians have the written word of God. If a Christian came in to order flowers -- and maybe lets say they were ordering flowers for their church, I suppose the owner could descrimate and not sell flowers for their church because they don't believe in Christianity, but that would be wrong. A true Christian; however, would not sue over it; they would just not go to that fourist anymore for their church and pray for them. The flourist not selling to the Christian would be more of a hate thing because they don't really have a basis for their belief other than they've made up their own belief that they don't like Christianity. And as a a Christian, we would always sell to other people of other faiths. I think the individual who owns the business should be able to make a decision about who they will or will not sell to since it is not a neccessity to have flowers and there are other flourists -- plenty that will cater to a gay marriage. If the flourist does pick and choose who they will sell to, they risk getting a reputation for that and possibly losing business -- that's how the free market works -- the public decides if someone is not conducting business appropiately and will not go there if they feel they are descriminating.
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  • Tamara Forsee Bacon wrote...
    DEAR FMS: OKAY, STOP ALREADY--YOU'RE CRACKIN' ME UP!
    So what's the deal with you and JoeSpitWad, et.al., who seem to think "oooh--got ya--ya wouldn't be 'acting the same way if this was a Christian or a Republican'--bet ya never thought of that one". Okay . . . perhaps we just need to type it slower: I-t w-o-u-l-d n-o-t m-a-t-t-e-r . W-e a-l-r-e-a-d-y k -n-o-w i-t c-u-t-s b-o-t-h w-a-y-s ! Look, guys . . . Jesus made it pretty clear what we're signing up for. He told us, in no uncertain terms: "If you are My disciples the world will hate you". Can't say it any clearer than that! Point being: We are used to it . . . we get it ALL the time. So . . . go right ahead . . . knock yourself out . . . take your best shot--we already know we have to let you do it again on the other side.
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  • Ron_Spins wrote...
    Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
    Oh, when will they ever learn? If it's a problem to a "Christian" wondering if Jesus would have sold those flowers ..do your"Biblical exegesis" Oh, when will they ever learn? Gone to flowers, everyone.
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  • Mavila wrote...
    You have to wonder if...
    Mr. Ferguson or Dave Ross would take this position if it was an Islamist florist.

    After all, the religion of Islam isn't exactly tolerant of, well, anything western, let alone homosexuality.

    What say you, Dave?

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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @Mavila
    How about if it were someone who discriminated against CHRISTIANS - you who are trying to tell us that it is ok to discriminate against gays - would you say it was ok because the flowershop was using it's freedom of speech to discriminate against CHRISTIANS or REPUBLICANS? (I'd like to think that Dave Ross would take the same position regarldess of who was being discriminated against - if anything, he's reasonably consistent)
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  • ron prevost wrote...
    Jarhead - Dave Ross might well take the same possition whoever (or at least he used to once)
    but there IS currently discrimination against Christians and a group. Something as simple as Muslims being accommodated with rooms or allowed times for prayer while no observance of Christian (or usually Jewish) special needs/requests IS discrimination. ..... Somehow the courts allow this because nominal Christianity is still the majority belief in this country.

    And if some of the slurs and hatred 'comedians' and celebrities use against Christians on a regular basis were applied to others (see Mel Gibson) it WOPULD be called hate speech.

    .

    BTW - we ARE allowed to discriminate on the basis of political party. ..... Theoretically. .........

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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @ron prevost
    Comedy is not generally considered discrimination - it's done against all religions, not just Christians. And comparing that to Mel Gibson's stupidity is patheticly wrong. Mel's outbursts were hate filled and done out of malice. Comedians poke fun at religions (even non-Christian ones!) not with hate and anger, but for the laughs. Unless you convince us that Mel did it for the laughs, it's a dishonest comparison. And btw - a business doing business with the public is BARRED from discriminating against Christians (anti-discrimination laws make it illegal to discriminate against any religion). However, you must compare apples to apples and not turn it sideways. You cannot go into a jewist deli and demand a ham sandwich and call it discrimination because they won't do it. Why? because they don't serve ham to ANYONE. If they refused to give you a pastrami sandwich because you weren't jewish while giving one to the guy after you who is - then it would be.
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  • ron prevost wrote...
    I've heard 'comedians' who certainly seemed mean spirited - and probably were.
    Some think that a laugh can be had simply by attacking Christian position. ... And my note of Mel Gibson was NOT comparison to comedians, but to celebrities on the left who DO attack viciously - for laughs or for pure spite. ... As well as many of our posters who certainly are neither celebrities nor comedians.

    And I (at least) never suggested a deli discriminates by not selling ham. .. That's a different post.

    .

    My point is that many individuals and groups suffer discrimination. And that what is wrong for one is wrong for all. ... You may have tried to say the same thing, but you fail to see the discrimination and hatred against other groups. ... All hatred is wrong. from the LEFT as well as from the right.

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  • Mavila wrote...
    FormerMarineSgt...
    Personally, I have no problem with someone denying service to a Christian for no other reason than their faith. I don't think it's a very good business decision and will likely cut short what might otherwise be a successful venture, but I prefer to land on the side of liberty. I am a libertarian in that sense.

    That said, you have to look at the specific facts of your hypothetical.

    If someone was to deny a service to a Christian as a violation of the business owner's religious expression then, yes, that would be Constitutionally guaranteed. I'm not aware of how a hypothetical like that would come to exist in reality, however, but I suppose it's possible.

    I think there is also a matter of what kind of service we are talking about, too. If, to use another hypothetical, a privately owned fire department service denied put out a house fire because of the customer's homosexuality and living arrangement, I think you might be able to make a case that there is a valid restriction on the Constitutional right much as everyone agrees that the right to free speech has limitations (for instance, shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater). In this case, it's a non-essential service that is readily replaceable.

    I'm not an expert, but I don't believe the Constitution prohibits a business from denying service to a customer based upon the customer's religious faith. It doesn't guarantee that business' right to do so, either. In other words, the Constitution is silent on the matter.

    In such a case, state law would, in fact, come into play and I strongly suspect that virtually every state prohibits denial of service on the basis of the customer's religious faith.

    It's also important, I think, to keep in mind that the florist served these two people historically, so the florist has demonstrated that they had not discriminated against the couple because of their homosexuality (assuming the florist knew they were homosexuals, of course).

    It's just that when it came to the matter of participating in what amounts to a violation of the florist's religious faith - a willful sin - that it became an issue. Forcing the florist to comply is a clear violation of the right of free religious expression guaranteed by the first amendment which trumps state law.

    The supremacy of the US Constitution is why the respective state laws weren't enforced in either Colorado or Oregon when nearly identical cases came to light (bakeries).

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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @mavila
    We may have to agree to disagree on parts of what we're discussing.... However, my opinion is that the Constitutional rights of individuals and groups are balanced by the application of laws. YOUR rights do not trump MINE. A balance of both must occur. When you go into business with the public, you implicity accept that you will have to follow all rules and laws governing that type of business. As a resteraunt, you have to maintain a certain level of cleanliness, food safety, payment of employees, vendors and taxes. You also implicity accept that you must comply with handicapped access laws and anti-discrimination laws, whether you agree with those laws or not.
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  • Mavila wrote...
    "YOUR rights do not trump MINE."
    However, you seem perfectly fine trumping the florist's rights in this instance.

    The simple fact is that the gay couple's rights are not being violated. There are, I'm sure, any number of alternative florists available that would be more than happy to fill their order.

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  • po_guy wrote...
    Are you saying that YOUR rights
    that come from your decision to hump another man instead of being NORMAL, should cause you to not be discriminated against?
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  • monkeygirl wrote...
    that's the way it is-
    YES
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  • fisher wrote...
    Should gun dealers turn away people who give off a bad vibe?
    Gun dealers themselves give off a bad vibe. Have you ever looked at some of those weirdos?
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  • CG58 wrote...
    just because the gov't says so
    doesn't mean I'm gonna follow this law. The government has no need to interfere with this lady's business. So long as the customer has other reasonable options, in this case another florist in town, then the government needs to keep it's nose out of religion (that is one of our Constitutional rights after all, not just a Washington state pc law). If this were a case of restricted access/availability, such as utilities enjoy,then I fully see the point in 'protecting' the consumer's need for access, but this is a florist and there are hundreds if not thousands of other options available to the homosexual couple. The business owner made it very clear that her decision was based upon her religious belief, and that belief is well documented, then the government has no right to interfere. In fact, the government is Constitutionally barred from interfering with the owner's religious practice. Rather than using this situation to gain their 15 minutes of fame, this 'couple' could have merely chosen another florist and the matter simply resolved. This is just another case of attention getting that our State AG is wasting our scarce tax dollars on.
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  • FormerMarineSgt wrote...
    @CG58
    Ok - let's say that you come to do business with me, and I find out something about you - say something like you're a devout Christian, or you're a right wing extremist, or a person that is not visibly a descendant of another race or culture than mine, but it becomes obvious when we start talking details on what you want. I decided to tell you that because of my beliefs, I cannot do business with you because you are __________ (fill in the blank). Would you 1) Walk away quietly and ignore that I just wronged you, 2) get angry, 3) try to talk me into doing business with you, 4) tell others how biased and bigoted I am and tell them not to do business with me, 5)get a lawyer because I violated the law in deciding to not do business with you? Most folks would do everything EXCEPT #1
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  • jstumbo wrote...
    Except you would be refusing service...
    to a person based on their protected status. They have sold to these customers before, knowing they were gay. They are not being refused service because they are gay, the florist just does not do gay weddings. It would be like if I went to a muslim restaurant every once in awhile. And they also cater. If I went there and said I wanted them to cater my Christian revival. They may say, that they do not want to cater a Christian revival. So should I sue them? Should the government sue them? Or should I just say fine, and find another caterer?
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