The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: Same-sex marriage lawsuit


Enforcing the law, equality

French writer Alexis De Tocqueville got it right more than 150 years ago when he observed, "Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question." A consumer-protection lawsuit against a Richland florist offers a practical illustration.
On Tuesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the suit against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman. On March 1, Stutzman told Robert Ingersoll, a longtime customer, that she couldn't provide flowers for his same-sex wedding because it was inconsistent with her Christian beliefs. Ingersoll posted on Facebook that the rejection gave him a "heavy heart." He told Stutzman that he respected her opinion. They hugged.
Now, navigate this encounter with a legal compass. Is this a political question, a violation of consumer protection, an expression of religious liberty, a human rights question? All of the above?
"As Attorney General, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington," Ferguson said. "Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service."
Unpack the legal argument, and there's validity to Ferguson's suit. In 2006, sexual orientation became a protected class under the Washington Law Against Discrimination. As far back as 1973, the Legislature authorized a subsection to the discrimination law that unfair trade or commerce violated the Consumer Protection Act.
The salient question is whether this suit is in the public interest. The law and Ferguson say yes. Ferguson's office gave Stutzman an opportunity to make amends, but her attorney rejected the offer. Reconciliation -- everyone's first choice -- appears unlikely.
In supporting marriage equality, The Herald Editorial Board opined that, "One of the biggest anti-marriage myths, popularized by opponents, revolves around R-74's legal fallout. In brief, lawsuits won't take off after same-sex marriage is legalized."
So, were we wrong? No, Ferguson says, the law traces back to 2006. Technically right can feel some-other-way uncertain, however.
Ferguson is idealistic, whip smart, and very likely a future governor. Twenty years from now, will this case be the sit-at-the-lunch-counter example? It's too early to know.
In the conflict-averse Pacific Northwest, lawsuits kindle anxiety. Ferguson is doing his job. Something constructive needs to come of it.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

Making noise in Everett
Making noise in Everett: Duo has big dreams for the city's music scene
Looking for a friend?
Looking for a friend?: Animals up for adoption at the Everett shelter (10 new photos)
First stop for tourists
First stop for tourists: County tourism volunteers inform, point the way
Remembering Jerry
Remembering Jerry: EvCC groundskeeper Gerald Olmstead was always happy
SnoCoSocial