A Washington florist is receiving thousands of dollars in support after she was forced to pay a $1,000 (£669.34) fine for refusing service for a gay couple's wedding. A GoFundMe campaign has raised $94,938 (£63,546.19) for 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman of Richland, Washington.
According to the Huffington Post, Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the 2013 wedding of longtime customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, citing religious reasons.
Following the incident, the florist told KEPR, "[Robert] said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, 'I am sorry. I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.'"
However, the couple told reporters they were deeply hurt by Stutzman's reaction. "It really hurt because it was somebody I knew," Ingersoll told the Tri-City Herald. "We laid awake all night Saturday. It was eating at our souls. There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work."
The couple and the Washington State Attorney General later sued the florist. A court found Stutzman had violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination and ordered her to pay a $1,000 (£669.34) fine and $1 (£0.67) in court costs and fees, Huffington Post reported.
Campaign to pay legal costs
That fine and legal fee would "financially devastate Barronelle's business and personal assets," her legal team alleged.
The GoFundMe campaign, which was started by one of Stutzman's friends and legal advisors Tom Savage, aims to raise $100,000 (£66,934.41) for any legal costs. The campaign states that any funds raised beyond the initial goal "will be used to cover those same expenses for others who defend their constitutional right to live consistently with their faith".
The campaign to help Stutzman is similar to that for Indiana's Memories Pizza, which recently came under fire for refusing to cater same-sex weddings. That GoFundMe campaign has raised $842,592 (£563,983.95) in just four days. The owners of Memories Pizza cited their Christian faith for the service refusal.
"If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no. We are a Christian establishment," co-owner Crystal O'Connor said on 31 March. O'Connor also stated she supports Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has caused a national debate over discrimination.