By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist florist sued after she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding is set to appear today before the Indiana Senate Rules Committee to oppose two bills prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flower Shop in Richland, Wash., claims two bills prohibiting discriminatory practices in the acquisition or sale of real estate, housing, employment, credit extensions and public contracts would empower the government to force small business owners to promote messages and participate in events that conflict with their religious beliefs.
Stutzman cited her Southern Baptist beliefs in turning down a longtime gay customer who asked her to help with his wedding. Last year a judge ruled she broke a state law barring discrimination in “places of public accommodation.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom is appealing the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court.
“People in creative professions regularly have to make decisions about where they lend their artistic talents and the events in which they will participate,” Stutzman said in a press release. “For me, it’s never about the person who walks into the shop, but about the message I’m communicating when someone asks me to ‘say it with flowers.’ We should all have artistic freedom and the right to disagree without one side of a conversation being threatened by the government.”
Stutzman justified her refusal citing Southern Baptist teaching including a resolution passed at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention opposing attempts to frame same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue because “homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender.”
Stutzman received a standing ovation when she was introduced at the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, during a report by SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.
“Mrs. Stutzman knew that the truth is not up for sale and the Gospel doesn’t bend to the highest bidder,” Moore told the messengers, “and faithful Christians do not stow away their convictions in a blind trust when they enter the public square.”
Bills SB 100 and SB 334 are among several bills carrying over from last year’s debate over a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Last year’s bill, signed by Gov. Mike Pence, sparked an outcry from LGBT advocates who called it discriminatory and boycott threats from businesses. Pence later signed a “fix” that some supporters of the original bill described as a setback.