Barronelle Stutzman fought an eight-year battle to create custom floral art without violating her conscience.(Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom)
A yearslong legal battle between a Christian florist and a gay customer she refused to provide wedding flowers for has finally come to an end after both sides reached a settlement.
Barronelle Stutzman, of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, was sued by Rob Ingersoll when she refused to make a floral arrangement for his 2013 same-sex wedding because of her religious beliefs.
She was ordered by the courts to pay a $1,000 penalty and legal fees for Ingersoll, an order that was upheld by Washington state’s Supreme Court in 2017 on grounds that she had violated anti-discrimination laws.
In 2019, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Stutzman a second time on the grounds that her refusal to provide the flowers “constitutes sexual orientation discrimination.”
Then in July this year, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, meaning that the Washington ruling stands, and leaving Stutzman faced with the prospect of having to pay crippling legal fees and the possibility of bankruptcy.
As part of the settlement announced this week, Stutzman has agreed to pay Ingersoll and his husband $5,000, while the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been representing Stutzman, has in return agreed to withdraw a petition to the Supreme Court.
Following the settlement, Stutzman plans to retire and hand over the reigns of her business to her employers.
In a letter to supporters, the 77-year-old said she was at peace with her decision.
“The confrontations have led me on a long and winding nine-year journey through the legal system, though it was a journey where Jesus Christ walked with me every step of the way,” she said.
“Today, that journey ends, and I am at peace. 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.
“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.”
She added, “I’ve never had to compromise my conscience, or go against my faith.”
ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said that the settlement was not a “surrender of Barronelle’s beliefs.”
“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,” Waggoner said, according to The Christian Post.
“And in so doing, she’s inspired millions of others in their own public and personal battles to live their faith without government interference.”