A settlement has been reached after almost a decade of litigation involving Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman and the gay couple she refused to serve, Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed, because of her religious beliefs. Stutzman has agreed to settle with the gay couple who filed a lawsuit against her for refusing to serve their same-sex wedding.
According to Fox News, Stutzman's attorneys sent the agreement to settle to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which confirmed that she was withdrawing her Supreme Court petition in exchange for Ingersoll and Freed discontinuing their pursuit of legal action. Stutzman will also pay the gay couple $5,000 and will stop pursuing damages against her business and personal assets. The agreement showed that both parties have agreed to its terms.
"We're all in trouble - whether we're religious or not - when we don't have the freedom to live consistent with our faith and our beliefs, when I don't have the freedom to run my business according to my beliefs, live my life according to my beliefs," Stutzman said in an exclusive interview with Fox, claiming that her faith was "not for sale." She added, "Rob and Curt have every right to live the way they do and the way they feel with their beliefs, and I'm just asking for that same [right]."
Now, Stutzman is set to retire and leave her Arlene's Flowers business in Richland, Washington to her employees. She was represented by the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), while Ingersoll was represented by the progressive group the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Christian Post reported. The 77-year old great grandmother shared that she is also planning to help support others who are dealing with religious liberty lawsuits.
In a statement posted online, Stutzman said, "I've never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith...There is a great deal of division at work in our country today, but God has shown me again and again that His love is stronger than the anger and the pain so many are feeling. And He's given me countless opportunities to share His love with others along the way."
Stutzman's legal batle with the gay couple began in 2013, when she refused to make flower arrangements for the wedding of Ingersoll and Freed because her sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage, which the Bible describes as a union exclusively between one man and one woman. The Christian florist was then sued by the gay couple, resulting in a $1,000 fine issued by a county court that also deemed her liable for thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Stutzman then appealed the ruling and in February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that she violated the anti-discrimination laws of the state that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation when she refused service to the gay couple. In June 2018, the ruling against Stutzman was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court and the case made its way back to the state supreme court for further consideration.
When Washington's high court upheld its earleir ruling against Stutzmanin June 2019, it said that her conduct "constitutes sexual orientation discrimination." A month later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case because they believed that the country's high court should have accepted the appeal.