The Arlene’s Flowers lawsuit, also known as the Arlene’s Flowers vs. Washington State Petition, is a class of consolidated civil suits brought by a gay couple whose florist refused to serve their gay wedding, which was illegal in Washington at the time. The lawsuit sought damages for “intentional discrimination,” which could include actions like not serving a gay couple with flowers because of their sexual orientation. In its simplest terms, the lawsuit alleged that the Washington State Petitionant and his gay lover intended to be married, but because the florist refused to do so, they violated the law. The complaint further alleged that the florist also engaged in conduct amounting to discrimination, by refusing to serve the couple. The complaint specifically noted that the cakes and other wedding supplies used by the Gay couple in question were all custom designed by someone who was openly hostile to same sex marriage.
On top of seeking damages on behalf of the Gay couple, the Flowers lawsuit sought to have the state of Washington to change its marriage laws to allow same sex marriages. Although the original complaint made reference to refusing to provide flowers for the ceremony, this suggestion was dropped from the complaint following a court decision throwing out a lawsuit brought by Lambadi v. Spokane, a gay advocacy law firm. Now, only specific actions can be brought by the plaintiffs. They are required to file a complaint with the court. Failure to do so means that the lawsuit will not succeed.
The complaint in the case, filed by Lambade, centered on two specific states: Washington State and Minnesota.
It named the other states as defendants, but did not specify which was them. The complaint also named the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization headed by Patrick J. Collins, as well as the state of Oregon, among others.
The complaint named florists Hermitage, Sweet Arches LLC, City Roses and others. All of these entities were listed as defendants in the original complaint. Hermitage, a florist, has been the target of criticism because it did not provide same-sex flowers at its businesses or services.
The plaintiffs, through their attorney, expect to win the flowers lawsuit.
“It is not uncommon for someone to send flowers to someone who cannot speak for themselves,” said plaintiffs’ attorney, Michael J. Volpe. “Places such as Alaska, where same-sex marriage is illegal, also serve as a forum for discrimination.
Plaintiffs feel that they are owed this acknowledgment and an opportunity to defend their constitutional rights.” In a written statement, ADF stated, “we will not comment on the merits of the complaint beyond saying that any employee who violates our Anti-discrimination Policy is subject to disciplinary action.”
The original complaint seeks compensation for the cost of the flowers that were sent to the couples in Washington State.
The complaint specifically states that the money obtained from the lawsuit will go to the surviving spouses. The state of Washington is not a party to the lawsuit. Neither is Oregon, which is the fourth plaintiff in the case. The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction against defendants, which would prevent them from coming within a 100 mile radius of plaintiffs’ home.
According to ADF, “The reality is that same sex marriages are now legal in every state across the United States.
The flowers involved in this case symbolize love and commitment that many couples wish to convey. It would be an inappropriate gesture to send flowers that have a message of support for same-sex marriages when same sex couples are seeking a legally recognized marriage.” ADF is representing the plaintiff’s seven same-sex spouse plaintiffs along with two other same-sex female plaintiffs.
There is no word yet on whether ADF will seek damages out of court or at trial. Flowers do not typically emerge as a significant issue in most litigation involving sexual-orientation cases, but attorneys dealing with such cases in Seattle have much experience with handling the delivery of flowers to customers’ homes following a lawsuit involving same-sex sexual-orientation discrimination.