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‘I would hug him,’ says florist of gay accuser

The florist and grandmother does not regret her nine-year friendship with a homosexual man who won a lawsuit against her after she refused to design floral arrangements for his gay wedding.

“If Rob [Robert Ingersoll] walked in the store today, I would hug him and catch up on his life,” said Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash. “The same faith that tells me that I can’t be a part of Rob’s wedding is the same faith that tells me to love him as Christ does.

“Christ loves us all regardless, and it’s not my place to judge him, or to judge anybody. It’s my place to be an example of Christ,” she said. “Do they see Christ in what I do, and how I treat them?”

Stutzman, 70-years-old, had provided floral arrangements for Ingersoll and most recently his friend Curt Freed on numerous occasions. But she refused in March 2013 to use her gifts and talents to design flowers for their wedding.

“I waited on Rob for nine years and created flowers for him on all types of occasions, but when it comes to my faith, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s where the line is drawn,” she said. “I cannot create something for him in good faith; I wouldn’t be honoring God’s Word.”

Stutzman was found guilty Feb. 18 in Benton County Superior Court of violating the couple’s U.S. and state civil rights, and was held personally liable for the couple’s damages and attorney fees, putting her at risk of losing her business and personal holdings. Backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Stutzman is appealing the case, and is prepared to take it to the nation’s highest court.

“We intend to go on, to appeal again, up to the Supreme Court if we have to,” said Stutzman, “because of my faith, because the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, because of my religious freedom.”

The issue isn’t about Ingersoll being gay, said Stutzman, who according to court documents has employed openly gay individuals through her business.

“The issue is marriage is between a man and a woman, according to my faith,” she said. “I just think of myself as a follower of Christ and the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Bible is my authority.”

In March, 2013, Stutzman did not refuse to provide floral stems to the couple, but referred him to several florists who would have no problem designing the arrangements.

“God has given me a talent to create something unique and different and from the heart, and it’s an expression, and it’s something that I just can’t celebrate,” she said, “doing flowers for a same-sex marriage.”

Ingersoll and Freed have since married.

— by Diana Chandler | BP

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