Judge: Washington florist who refused to sell flowers for gay wedding broke law

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a florist in Washington state who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated state consumer protection and anti-discrimination law.

In an opinion Wednesday, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her religious freedom.

He said that while religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren't necessarily protected. Courts have long held that lawmakers can prohibit discriminatory conduct, and the judge said florist Barronelle Stutzman broke the law when she refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding in 2013.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington welcomed the ruling.

“The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Washingtonians have enacted laws recognizing equality for same-sex couples, and I will continue to vigorously uphold these laws. I appreciate the judge’s decision and am very proud of my team’s hard work to stop this unlawful discrimination.”