Thousands have signed a petition launched by a leading conservative organization urging President Donald Trump to protect religious liberty through executive action after the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman violated an anti-discrimination law for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding.
"We must not let what has happened to Barronelle at the state level happen to others at the federal level," said the Family Research Council in a statement. "This ruling is all the more reason for President Trump to protect religious liberty through executive action. Please join our petition effort calling for such protections:
The petition, signed by over 299,000 individuals, reads: "The above individuals and groups, and many others like them, have either suffered religious freedom violations or are about to suffer them under Obama era anti-religious policies. They need protections that you can grant in an executive order. I urge you to take executive action to ensure their freedom to believe and live out those beliefs is protected."
As reported, Stutzman, the 71-year-old owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, was sued in 2013 by long-time customer Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed for refusing to make floral arrangements for their same-sex wedding.
In 2015, she was fined $1,001 and held responsible for legal fees after the Benton County Superior Court ruled that she violated the state's nondiscrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation.
The state's Supreme Court unanimously upheld the lower court's decision on Thursday, with Associate Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud insisting in the majority opinion that Stutzman's constitutional protections have not been violated.
"Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case - refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to Ingersoll and Freed because theirs would be a same-sex wedding constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the WLAD (Washington Law Against Discrimination)," the opinion stated.
"We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection. As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association."
While considering Ingersoll a dear friend, Stutzman said her Christian faith compelled her to deny services for his 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," Stutzman explained in an article she wrote for The Seattle Times.
"Marriage does celebrate two people's love for one another, but its sacred meaning goes far beyond that," she continued. "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."
In a statement Thursday, the Family Research Council said it was "stunned" by the court's decision.
"Americans were told repeatedly that redefining marriage would have little impact on their lives. Yet now courts are seeking to drive families from their businesses - and now today even their homes as the result of crippling government imposed fines designed to force them to deny their faith," FRC President Tony Perkins said.
"Cultural elites," he argued, are succeeding in convincing judges to "strip away the livelihoods of people."
"The Supreme Court must correct this gross injustice and we urge President [Donald] Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious freedom to ensure the federal government does not engage in the same discriminatory behavior as rogue states like Washington," Perkins stated.
"Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious freedoms because of [former President Barack] Obama-era policies. The time to protect religious freedom is now."
Alliance Defending Freedom has asked one million people to donate $24 in order to help the florist appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, as Stutzman has to pay attorneys' fees "that the ACLU racked up in suing her" which will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It is alarming to think that Barronelle, a small business owner and creative professional who loves and respects everyone who walks through her shop's doors, stands to lose all she owns - her retirement, her life savings, her home. It's all at risk simply because her long-time friend and customer asked her to create custom art for one event that violated her conscience," the group wrote.
"This is a devastating loss, and Barronelle needs our prayers."
To add your name to the petition, click here.