Next Friday, December 19th, at 1:30 pm, at the Benton County Superior Courthouse in Kennewick, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, will be in court. Along with lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom, Barronelle will be defending herself against the lawsuit brought against her by Attorney General Bob Ferguson because she declined to decorate for a same-sex “wedding”.
The trial will begin early next year. Whatever the outcome of that trial, it is almost certain to be appealed. This case will likely not be over anytime soon.
But right now, they are deciding preliminary matters.
When the Attorney General Bob Ferguson decided to start suing grandmothers because of their beliefs about same-sex “marriage”, he did something unusual. He sued both Arlene’s Flowers as a business and Barronelle Stutzman personally.
If you’re not a lawyer, or if you’ve never been sued, the significance of this might not be immediately obvious. But it is significant.
If you buy a car that explodes because of a design defect, you would sue the company that made the car. You would not, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, sue the families who own stock in that car company.
One of the primary reasons to create a separate legal entity for a business is to protect the personal assets of the owners from the liabilities of the business.
Well, Bob Ferguson apparently thinks this case is exceptional, because he sued both the company (Arlene’s Flowers) and its owner (Barronelle Stutzman).
The significance of this will be felt in the event Mrs. Stutzman loses her lawsuit.
In lawsuits, the winner often collects legal fees.
In this case, the Attorney General’s Office would almost certainly try to be reimbursed for the expenses it incurred.
Since this case is likely to last years, you can be certain that the expenses will be several hundred thousand dollars.
But not all defendant’s have hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around in the event they lose a lawsuit, which is why, if you are suing someone, it’s helpful to have multiple defendants.
By suing both Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman, Bob Ferguson could not only seize all the company’s assets and bankrupt her business but, if the entire legal bill was not paid by the business assets, he could also go after the Stutzman family as well. He could take her house, her cars, her retirement, even her wedding ring.
Will he do that? Who knows. But having the option is the reason he sued her personally as well as her business.
Whether this is appropriate is one of the pre-trial issues that is being argued.
I hope reading about this bothers you.
For all that we think we’ve learned about tolerance and bigotry, this case just shows that it never actually goes anywhere, it just takes different forms.
I hope it bothers you enough to show up at the courthouse in Kennewick next Friday at 1:30 and support Barronelle Stutzman.
If you’re a pastor, show up and encourage your church to join you.
I hope it motivates you to call some friends and take them with you. I hope it motivates you to make a (respectful) phone call to Bob Ferguson’s office at 360-753-6200 and ask him to drop this lawsuit.
If we don’t intervene, she might lose everything she has because of what she believes about marriage.
We are all Barronelle Stutzman.
The legislature could act immediately to eliminate the basis of this lawsuit.
Why haven’t they?
Some of them like what is happening. They want people who disagree with them about marriage to lose their business and home for refusing to celebrate their sexuality with them.
But even those who don’t like it say they aren’t hearing from the public that they care about this issue.
That needs to change.
So right after you call Bob Ferguson, call your legislators at the legislative hotline 1-800-562-6000 and tell them to protect Arlene’s Flowers and the conscience rights of businesses. Then make plans to visit them in their office and tell them they need to start sticking up for grandmothers who are being bullied by the state.
Then show up at the courthouse next Friday at 1:00 and show your support for Arlene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman and conscience rights.