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Fundraiser for Washington florist who rejects gay marriage raises $90,000

Nearly $90,000 raised for Washington florist who refused gay couple

A deluge of cash has flowed into an online crowd-funding account set up to support a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. 

Supporters of Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., created a GoFundMe page  in February, shortly after a judge ruled she had violated consumer protection laws. Stutzman was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as a result of the lawsuit filed against her by the state's attorney general, who successfully argued that those consumer protection laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

As of Sunday, the GoFundMe page had amassed about $90,000 in donations for Stutzman. Almost half of that total was raised in the last 24 hours. 

The fundraiser comes as the nation debates religious freedom, the rights of business owners and LGBT rights.

Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act was castigated by critics as a measure that allows business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples. Under pressure from businesses and activists, as well as widespread media attention, lawmakers passed subsequent legislation clarifying that discrimination was not permitted within the parameters of the law. Gov. Mike Pence signed the revision. 

And in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson backed away from a similar bill he had pledged to sign. Instead, at his urging the Legislature passed legislation closely resembling a federal law barring governments from infringing on religious practices. The governor signed that bill. 

In Washington state, Stutzman had argued in court that the tenets of her "Southern Baptist tradition" precluded her from arranging flowers for same-sex weddings, or to allow any of her employees to do so. Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed said they had spent thousands of dollars buying flowers from Stutzman's flower shop for nearly a decade when they asked her to provide floral arrangements for their wedding in 2013.

A phone call to Stutzman's flower shop was not immediately returned Sunday. Tom Savage, who set up the online crowd-funding page for Stutzman and identifies himself as a friend, also did not respond to requests for comment. 

The cash raised for Stutzman is a fraction of  the $840,000 a similar page helped bring in recently for a pizzeria owner in Indiana. 

Memories Pizza became the focus of a national debate over Indiana's religious freedom law last week when Crystal O'Connor told a local television station her family would refuse requests to cater a same-sex wedding because it conflicted with their faith. 

On the page for Stutzman, Savage wrote that his friend "may lose her business, her home, and her savings - because she stood for her faith."

"The highest priority is to protect Barronelle and her livelihood," he notes. 


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