A Christian florist who was sued and found guilty of discrimination after refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding isn't planning on backing down, recently issuing a defiant letter rejecting a settlement agreement and revealing plans to appeal her case.
After Barronelle Stutzman, 70, declined a $2,001 settlement offer in a letter to the state's attorney general on Friday, her attorney, Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm, told TheBlaze on Monday that a judge's decision that Stutzman violated anti-discrimination law will be challenged in the state court system.
As previously reported, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom decided last week that Barronelle Stutzman violated Washington’s Law Against Discrimination and Consumer Protection Act when she refused service to Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed.
The state subsequently offered a settlement in which Waggoner would only need to pay a $2,000 fine and $1 in legal fees and commit to offering flowers for gay and straight weddings, alike, if she continues providing matrimony services, the Daily Mail reported.
But the florist declined the offer, with Waggoner telling TheBlaze that nothing new or protective was afforded to her client.
"Attorney General [Bob Ferguson] has relentlessly pursued her personal and professional ruin because she will not celebrate same-sex marriage. His settlement proposal offered nothing new," she said. "The attorney general continues to pursue her business and personal assets unless she agrees to stop designing wedding arrangements and providing wedding support services for all weddings."
Waggoner said that the government continues to send a message that artists like Stutzman will be punished if they do not embrace gay relationships.
"The government's message is the same: as an artist, you must use your heart, mind, and hands to promote same-sex marriage or you will lose everything," Waggoner said.
The attorney's comments come after Stutzman penned a response letter to Ferguson, rejecting his offer and defending her religious beliefs. In it, she wrote that it has been "exhausting" to be at the center of the controversy over the past two years and said that she never imagined that her "God-given talents and abilities" would become illegal if she refused to use them to serve same-sex weddings.
"Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs," she wrote.
Stutzman specifically took aim at Ferguson's settlement offer, claiming that it shows that he truly doesn't understand her intention to defend her religious liberty.
"Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money," she wrote. "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 continued, "Washington’s constitution guarantees us 'freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.' I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do."
Read the letter in its entirety below:
Dear Mr. Ferguson,
Thank you for reaching out and making an offer to settle your case against me.
As you may imagine, it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting to be at the center of this controversy for nearly two years. I never imagined that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.
Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. 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. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.
I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process. Thanks again for writing and I hope you will consider my offer.
Waggoner said that the letter was meant to affirm that Stutzman will not be giving up by surrendering her freedom for money.
"In what world is $2,001 a good deal for surrendering your freedom?" Waggoner said.
Read more about the ongoing story here.
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