RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A florist in Washington state who was in an eight-year legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court will retire after settling with the same-sex couple whose wedding job she refused.
Barronelle Stutzman, Richland Washington, has announced Thursday’s settlement, stating that she had paid $5,000 to Robert Ingersoll of The Tri-City Herald reported.
She also wished Ingersoll, who had been her customer at Arlene’s Flowers for almost a decade, “the very best.”
Curt Freed and Ingersoll plan to give the settlement payment to the local chapter of PFLAG and to personally match $5,000.
The agreement allows Stutzman to “preserve her conscience” by not forcing her to act against her Southern Baptist religious beliefs, according to a news release from her attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom. The settlement was reached with American Civil Liberties Union.
It also prevents Stutzman from having “to pay potentially ruinous attorneys’ fees,” the release said.
“I am willing to turn the legal struggle for freedom over to others. At age 77, it’s time to retire and give my business to someone else,” Stutzman said.
Two unanimous Washington state Supreme Court decisions stating that the Constitution does no permit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals are preserved in the settlement, according to the ACLU of Washington.
“We took on this case because we were worried about the harm being turned away would cause LGBTQ people,” Freed and Ingersoll said Thursday in a statement. “We are glad the Washington Supreme Court rulings will stay in place to ensure that same-sex couples are protected from discrimination and should be served by businesses like anyone else.”
Ingersoll, Freed and the ACLU filed an anti-discrimination case against Stutzman in 2013.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued separately, saying the floral artist violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act by declining to provide services based on sexual orientation.
A Benton County Superior Court judge in 2015 ruled that Stutzman must pay $1 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the state, along with a $1,000 civil penalty, for discriminating against the couple. The judgment stands.
“We are pleased to hear that Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman have reached a settlement agreement with the couple they refused to serve,” Ferguson said in an email to the Tri-City Herald.
Stutzman appealed the two cases to the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The country’s highest court vacated Washington state’s previous ruling and sent it back to the lower court in 2018 for another review. The Washington Supreme Court in 2019 ruled unanimously that state courts did not act with animosity toward religion when they ruled Stutzman broke the state’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing on religious grounds to provide wedding flowers.
Stutzman and Alliance Defending Freedom — in their second attempt to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court — filed a petition for review in September 2019.
The Supreme Court rejected the July petition for rehearing. Stutzman replied with a petition to rehearing. However, she will withdraw this as part of her settlement.