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Floral artist to Washington Supreme Court: Protect my artistic freedom

ADF attorney available for media interviews following oral arguments Tuesday

Monday, Nov 14, 2016
WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner
WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments presented to Washington Supreme Court in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers
WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 15, immediately following oral arguments, which begin at 9 a.m. PST
WHERE: Bellevue College, 3000 Landerholm Circle SE, Bellevue, or view live webcast of oral arguments

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner will be available for media interviews Tuesday following her oral arguments before the Washington Supreme Court on behalf of Richland floral artist Barronelle Stutzman, whom the state attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union sued for acting consistently with her faith. Stutzman also will be present to provide a statement to the media following the oral arguments.

ADF attorneys represent Stutzman and her business, Arlene’s Flowers. In September, 13 states, various constitutional scholars and legal experts, a wide range of religious organizations and denominations, and an international association of Christian photographers filed briefs with the Washington high court in support of Stutzman and the principle that the government cannot force Americans to promote messages and participate in events with which they disagree.

“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else in Washington for expressing their beliefs,” said Waggoner, who will argue before the high court together with co-counsel George Ahrend. “Barronelle served the man who is suing her dozens of times for different life events for nearly a decade. This case is about the government forcing her to participate in an event and promote ideas against her will under the threat of punishment. She stands to lose everything simply for declining to promote the state-approved meaning of marriage.”

A lower court ruled that Stutzman must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a long-time customer’s same-sex ceremony. Rather than participate, Stutzman referred Rob Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend and had served for nearly 10 years, to several other florists in the area who were comfortable promoting and participating in their ceremony.

“Rob Ingersoll and I have been friends since very nearly the first time he walked into my shop,” Stutzman wrote in an op-ed for The Spokesman-Review published Saturday. “I always thought that must be because Rob ‘gets it’—what it means to be a particular kind of artist, working to create beautiful messages through flowers and the talents God has given me. All those years, he always asked for me, when he could easily have gone somewhere else for his arrangements. There was never an issue with his being gay (nor has there been with any of my other customers or employees). He just enjoyed my arrangements, and I loved creating them for him…. I miss him coming into the shop.”

“But the state is trying to use his case to force me to create artistic expressions that violate my deepest beliefs,” Stutzman continued. “It’s moving to dissolve my most precious freedom, erode my life’s work and savings, and take away the financial security of those who work with me. Yet, I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me—and you: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”

In addition to Ahrend, attorney John Connelly is also counsel of record in the lawsuits, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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