[I]t is harder to say, when the cruel coat [of pitch] is produced, I do not sacrifice, than to obey the order, "Burn thy hand."
Epigrams of Martial. Believed to refer to Christian martyrs.
Alliance Defending Freedom has reported on the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington State florist who is being sued for huge damages both by homosexual plaintiffs and by the Attorney General of Washington State. The lawsuit seeks to recover all of the legal costs for those who are suing her.
If that isn't bad enough, a little extra malicious detail is that she has received many requests for homosexual "wedding" flowers in an obviously coordinated effort to drive up her fines.
One odd aspect of the case is that a judge has ruled, agreeing with the Attorney General, the ACLU, and the homosexual plaintiffs, that liability extends beyond her corporation, which apparently is organized as an LLC. She is being held personally liable, and this could amount to personal ruin for her, given that the Attorney General is demanding that she pay the other side's legal fees if she loses. I was immediately curious about why she is being held personally liable and did some digging. Here is the judge's ruling.
The plaintiffs', AG's, and judge's argument amounts to this, as near as I can understand it: The non-discrimination law of Washington State was deliberately worded so as to tie in to the Consumer Protection Act of Washington State in such a way that anyone who violates the non-discrimination act is automatically personally liable under the Consumer Protection Act.
Normally, as Mrs. Stutzman's lawyers point out, the flower shop's organization as a corporation means that she can be held personally liable only if she misused the corporate entity to engage in fraudulent practices, which is not the case here. The judge replies that that doesn't matter, that he doesn't have to rule that a special "piercing of the corporate veil" is called for, because the law she has allegedly broken automatically removes corporate protections and renders anyone breaking it personally liable in addition to any corporate liability. ADF, her legal firm, alleges that this is unprecedented. The judge says, in response, that a supervisor was found personally liable in an employment discrimination case and that this constitutes a precedent of applying the non-discrimination law in this way. The claim on the part of the judge and the plaintiffs is that breaking the non-discrimination law is, by the intent of that law, per se a legally "unfair or deceptive practice" under the Consumer Protection Act.
Some homosexual activist apologists are arguing that the florist violated the Consumer Protection Act by being "fraudulent" in virtue of advertising that she performs wedding services while refusing to serve a homosexual "wedding." This is an utterly perverse argument, since she has been completely open from the first, not to mention the fact that repeated calls and demands have been made because homosexual activists know that she will not do their "weddings" and are trying to drive up her fines!
The judge's argument appears to be both more nuanced (in a sense) and more legalistic: It is not necessary, he argues, to show that she committed a specific act of fraud. Rather, he alleges, any violation of the non-discrimination law is automatically, by definition, an "unfair or deceptive business practice."
Now, I am somewhat interested in what my more knowledgeable readers have to say about this legal argument and the legislative intent of state non-discrimination laws.
But supposing the judge's purely legal argument to be correct, what does this tell us about non-discrimination laws, assuming that other laws are similar to those in Washington State? That they are set up, even more than some of us (I, for one) had previously realized, to be weapons of personal destruction aimed at anyone who breaks them.
This is a surprising, not to say a shocking, revelation, and the fact that it has not been more widely known leads me to believe that perhaps such laws have not been very widely applied in this way--to go after alleged discriminators for personal liability, including the legal costs of those suing them. There is an extraordinary and quite unnecessary vindictiveness in the Attorney General's pursuit of Barronelle Stutzman, but if he has the intent of the non-discrimination laws of the State of Washington technically on his side, this tells us that non-discrimination laws are wildly disproportionate and need to be revised. (I know. Fat chance.) I would not wish personal ruin even upon someone who was committing discrimination that I myself strongly disapproved of.
One thing we can be sure of: If this "sleeper" aspect of non-discrimination laws has been just waiting to be used, it will be used with the full vindictiveness of the homosexual lobby against all who oppose them. And "opposing them" means refusing affirmatively to participate in homosexual "weddings." Everybody who works in any aspect of the wedding business is a potential target for personal destruction.
And let's have none of the nonsense I have seen elsewhere to the effect that Stutzman was merely being asked to supply "materials" for a wedding and was trying to "control" the use of those "materials." If you know anything about how a florist works for most weddings you know that the florist provides a service for the event. As ADF explains, in order to comply with the non-discrimination law, since this is what she provides generally as a wedding service, Stutzman would have to "provide full wedding support for same-sex ceremonies, including custom design work to decorate the ceremony, delivery to the forum, staying at the ceremony to touch up arrangements, and assisting the wedding party."
That isn't just a matter of selling them flowers. And in any event, we have sunk low indeed when the right to destroy anyone who doesn't sell you flowers is cherished in our land. But here we are talking about much more than selling the flowers. We are talking about helping affirmatively to celebrate the event, which should lay to rest once and for all questions about whether Christians can participate in good conscience in these demands. Indeed, being a florist for a same-sex "wedding" is far more objectionable from a sexually traditional perspective than attending a same-sex "wedding," and (for now) most Christians with any pretense to orthodoxy on this issue would refuse to do that.
I fear that ADF and Barronelle Stutzman are going to lose this one.
Which leads to an interesting question: If you provide a wedding service--baking wedding cakes, providing flowers, wedding clothes, wedding coordinator, wedding music, the list goes on and on--what should you do?
As all readers know, I strongly reject the idea that Christians should drop out of civil marriage. We have argued that question endlessly with confused libertarians on this blog.
But it is a different thing to ask whether Christians should drop out of the wedding racket. I use the derogatory word "racket" not to cast any aspersions on bakers, florists, musicians, photographers, and tailors, but merely to point out that getting married is not the same thing as the wedding industry. There is no rule that says that Christians have to have a full-service florist at their weddings, a professional photographer, professional musician, or any of the other expenses that have come to be associated with weddings. In fact, the large sums of money that go to those things might well be better spent on the couple's actual needs as they get started in life. This is true aside from the homosexual "marriage" issue. Now that people of principle are being hounded out of the wedding industry, it might not be a bad idea to consider the following scenario: Christian businessmen stop offering specific, targeted wedding services and change their business model to offering more generic services which the customer takes away and uses without reference to the particular event. Christians who hear that a local baker no longer bakes wedding cakes for anybody buy more of his generic, non-wedding cakes as a sign of support. And the same for a florist. Christian florists announce that they no longer do weddings but that any member of the public can buy flowers without stating what the event is for which they will be used, take them away, and use them. No custom design work will be offered for weddings or romantic commitment ceremonies, no decoration of a wedding venue, and no delivery to a wedding venue. No wedding services whatsoever. Christians who are getting married and want flowers choose and buy flowers which they pick up themselves for their weddings as a sign of support to the conscientious florists who have ceased to offer targeted wedding services to the public. Photographers would just have to lose wedding and engagement business altogether, as would musicians, since there is no way to make generic stuff for people to take away for those industries.
Yes, the bakers, florists, photographers, etc., will lose money over this, and some will doubtless go out of business if they were heavily dependent on actual wedding services. But better that than losing your house and all your savings to pay for the lawyers representing vindictive people who have set out to destroy you. And better that than violating your conscience, treating homosexual "weddings" as normal, and putting on a happy face while you use your creativity and industry to help a homosexual couple celebrate their Big Day.
As I was preparing to hit "publish" on this report, I went searching for another link and learned this: The AG of Washington State has issued a press release on February 19 in which he offered Stutzman a way out. She can avoid being thrown to the lions if she will pour a libation to the emperor. Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he will settle his lawsuit for the sum of $2001 dollars, an agreement by Stutzman not to "discriminate" in the future, and no further appeals. Stutzman has declined.
By the way: Next time somebody tells you that homosexual "marriage" is increasing freedom, reducing government control of individuals, and doesn't harm anybody, you can just go ahead: Laugh in his face.