Most people, seeing that headline, might think: “Shouldn’t it be ‘My Ex-Friend Is Suing Me?’ ” But Rob Ingersoll will always be my friend. Recent events [“Why true marriage equality matters to us,” Opinion, Nov. 1] have complicated — but not changed — that fact for me.
I’ve been a florist in Richland for 30 years. You don’t work that long in a small town without getting to know your customers very well and counting many of them as friends. Rob and I hit it off from the beginning because, like me, he looks at flowers with an artist’s eye. We see not just potential bouquets, but how different combinations and just-right arrangements can bring a special beauty, memories and even a little humor to someone’s birthday, anniversary — or wedding.
That’s why I always liked bouncing off creative ideas with Rob for special events in his life. He understood the deep joy that comes from precisely capturing and celebrating the spirit of an occasion. For 10 years, we encouraged that artistry in each other.
I knew he was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian. But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity — until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding.
If all he’d asked for were prearranged flowers, I’d gladly have provided them. If the celebration were for his partner’s birthday, I’d have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance.
Marriage does celebrate two people’s love for one another, but its sacred meaning goes far beyond that. Surely without intending to do so, Rob was asking me to choose between my affection for him and my commitment to Christ. As deeply fond as I am of Rob, my relationship with Jesus is everything to me. Without Christ, I can do nothing.
I’m not ashamed of that, but it was a painful thing to try to explain to someone I cared about — one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But Rob assured me he understood. And I suggested three other nearby florists I knew would do an excellent job for this celebration that meant so much to him. We seemed to part as friends.
But then I was sued.
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SOURCE: The Seattle Times
Barronelle Stutzman is owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland. Her attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a notice of appeal in April with the Washington State Supreme Court in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.