The story of Arlene’s Flowers, a Richland, Washington florist who declined the chance to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, has now garnered national attention. Given the nature of the issue, it is likely to be a significant story for a long time. The situation is not entirely unusual. Many other businesses and professionals have faced legal trouble because of their beliefs about marriage and homosexuality.
But this case is unique. Typically a disgruntled customer claims his civil rights are being violated and files a complaint with the state’s Human Rights Commission. In this case, Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, (360-753-6200) is taking it upon himself to sue a small business owner because her convictions about marriage prohibited her from being able to lend her services to a same-sex wedding ceremony involving long-time customers.
One wonders what our founding fathers, many of whom left Europe to get away from a religious and philosophical litmus test for being involved in civil society, would think about the Attorney General’s apparent suggestion that you must agree with, or at least cooperate with, the government dogma regarding marriage as a condition of running a business.
Someone looking for a business idea might test just how strong the market for brown shirts actually is in Washington State.
But who is really responsible?
The most obvious target is the Attorney General himself. He initiated the lawsuit and is using taxpayer resources to go after a small business owner with conviction about marriage that he does not share.
But the attorney general has not acted alone here. During the debate over same-sex “marriage”, situations like this were foreseen. In an attempt to prevent them, amendments were offered in both the House and the Senate that would have clarified that an individual or a small business owner has the legal right to make decisions in their lives and businesses based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of legal consequences.
Those amendments were rejected. In refusing to provide those legal protections, the legislature expressed their desire for precisely this kind of result; small businesses like Arlene’s Flowers will be faced with lawsuits because of who they are and what they believe. Every state legislator who voted against the amendments to protect religious freedom and in support of the same-sex “marriage” bill is complicit as well.
Who is responsible for how the legislature responds? We are, of course. If we dislike the fact that the Attorney General is acting at the prompting of the legislature to harass small business owners because they don’t embrace government dogma, then the people who put them into office to make decisions on our behalf need to evaluate how well they’re doing at supervising those who work for them.
As the great philosopher Michael Jackson once wrote “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Being upset isn’t enough. We have to be willing to do something about it. And the best way to do that is to make sure you remember Arlene’s Flowers when you vote next year. If you vote for the people who supported the policies that led to this outcome, or don’t vote at all, you probably shouldn’t complain.