Florist still professes Christian love for gay man who sued her

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RICHLAND, Wash. (BP)—A Southern Baptist florist does not regret her nine-year friendship with a man who won a lawsuit against her after she refused to design floral arrangements for his gay wedding.

“If Rob (Ingersoll) walked in the store today, I would hug him and catch up on his life,” said Barronnelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash. “The same faith that tells me that I can’t be a part of Rob’s wedding is the same faith that tells me to love him as Christ does.

“Christ loves us all regardless, and it’s not my place to judge him, or to judge anybody. It’s my place to be an example of Christ. Do they see Christ in what I do, and how I treat them?”

Stutzman, a 70-year-old member of Richland Baptist Church in Richland, provided floral arrangements for Ingersoll and his friend, Curt Freed, on numerous occasions. But she refused in March 2013 to use her gifts and talents to design flowers for their wedding.

“I waited on Rob for nine years and created flowers for him on all types of occasions, but when it comes to my faith, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s where the line is drawn,” she said. “I cannot create something for him in good faith. I wouldn’t be honoring God’s word.”

Found guilty

Stutzman was found guilty Feb. 18 in Benton County Superior Court of violating the couple’s U.S. and state civil rights, and was held personally liable for the couple’s damages and attorney fees, putting her at risk of losing her business and personal holdings. Stutzman is appealing the case.

“We intend to go on, to appeal again, up to the Supreme Court if we have to—because of my faith, because the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, because of my religious freedom,” she said.

The issue isn’t about Ingersoll’s sexual orientation, Stutzman said. Court documents show she has employed openly gay individuals through her business.

About marriage, not orientation

“The issue is marriage is between a man and a woman, according to my faith,” she said. “I just think of myself as a follower of Christ, and the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Bible is my authority. …

“God has given me a talent to create something unique and different and from the heart, and it’s an expression, and it’s something that I just can’t celebrate—doing flowers for a same-sex marriage.”

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