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Thursday 22 March 2018

Florist fined for gay couple stance

Nearly half the money donated to Barronelle Stutzman came in the past few days (AP/The Tri-City Herald)
Nearly half the money donated to Barronelle Stutzman came in the past few days (AP/The Tri-City Herald)

A florist in the US fined 1,000 dollars (£675) for refusing to sell a same-sex couple wedding flowers has netted more than 85,000 dollars (£57,000) in a crowdfunding campaign.

The Seattle Times reports that nearly half of the money on the page set up in late February for Barronelle Stutzman, 70, came in the last several days.

Supporters compare Mr Stutzman's benefit page to an Indiana pizza restaurant that raised more than 800,000 dollars (£540,000) after closing when a co-owner expressed support for the state's new religious objections law to protect private business owners.

The co-owner said the restaurant would not cater for a gay wedding.

But Indiana politicians, facing mounting pressure, tweaked the law late last week to address concerns that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Ms Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, was fined 1,000 in Benton County Superior Court in March after refusing to serve a same-sex couple in 2013.

That was a violation of the state's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, the court ruled.

The court's ruling also requires Ms Stutzman's shop to make available to same-sex couples everything it sells to opposite-sex couples.

The Washington state law, attorney general Bob Ferguson has said, "clearly prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples".

But Ms Stutzman said same-sex weddings go against her Southern Baptist beliefs. After she declined to agree to no longer discriminate, Mr Ferguson said, his office filed a consumer-protection lawsuit.

"It's about freedom, not money," Ms Stutzman wrote to Mr Ferguson in February, two days after the court ruling, in a letter obtained by the Seattle newspaper.

"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 honour God in doing what I do best is more important."

A note on the gofundme site for Ms Stutzman said the site was set up by a friend who works for a legal organisation, and that donated money is intended for potential legal bills.

More than 2,000 people had made donations by yesterday, the website said.

Press Association

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