After almost nine years, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, has reached a settlement in the case brought against her by homosexual partners Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.
“I wish the culmination of all that I’ve been through could result in a new respect, culturally and legally, for freedom of conscience in our country,” Stutzman said in a Nov. 17 press release. “From the beginning, I have asked no more than the freedom to act in accordance with my religious beliefs and personal convictions. I have treated those who persecuted me with respect, and with the assurance that I want for them the same freedom that I ask for myself.”
In 2013, Stutzman, a Bible-believing Christian, respectfully declined to make a custom floral arrangement for long-time customer and friend Robert Ingersoll’s same-sex wedding.
“I believe the Bible to be the Word of God,” Stutzman said. “That Word makes it clear that God loves all people so much that He sent His Son to die in their place. And it also teaches that He designed marriage to be only the union of one man and one woman. I could not take the artistic talents God Himself gave me and use them to contradict and dishonor His Word.”
Instead, she recommended some other florists to Ingersoll and ended the conversation with a hug.
“I thought we remained friends who kindly disagreed on an issue deeply important to both of us,” Stutzman said.
But the next day, Ingersoll’s partner, Curt Freed, posted about the interaction on social media, prompting news coverage that was then seen by the Washington attorney general—who filed suit against Stutzman alleging violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act.
Later, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a separate suit against Stutzman on behalf of Ingersoll and Freed.
In early July, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Stutzman’s case, meaning she was liable to Ingersoll and Freed for damages and to the ACLU for attorney fees. The price tag was expected to be in the millions of dollars, which a lower court ruled could be collected from both her business and her personal assets.
So after nearly a decade embroiled in legal battles, Stutzman, now 77 and a great-grandmother, made the decision to settle the case and retire. She has agreed to withdraw a pending petition for rehearing at the U.S. Supreme Court and make a payment of only $5,000 to Ingersoll and Freed.
“This settlement is an end to a lengthy court case, not a change in or surrender of Barronelle’s beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who represented Stutzman. “Over the last eight years, Barronelle stood for the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, even those who disagree with her about a deeply personal and important issue like marriage. And in so doing, she’s inspired millions of others in their own public and personal battles to live their faith without government interference.”
Stutzman thanked God for sustaining her all these years and said she is passing the “legal torch” to other artists fighting for religious liberty, like Lorie Smith of 303 Creative in Colorado.
“There is a great deal of division at work in our country today,” said Stutzman, “but God has shown me again and again that His love is stronger than the anger and the pain so many are feeling. And He’s given me countless opportunities to share His love with others along the way.
“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,” she concluded.
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom