“Christian florist: My longtime customer was a friend, then he sued me over his gay wedding”

USA Today 8 October 2019
Family First Comment: “Why would people want to force me to celebrate a wedding that violates my faith? Wouldn’t they want someone able to devote themselves to it? I wouldn’t want to force an atheist to sing at my church on Sunday or a gay graphic designer to create a website promoting my church’s views on marriage. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

As I discussed the engagement story of my longtime customer and friend, hugged him and said goodbye, the Supreme Court was the last thing on my mind. Little did I know that conversation in 2013 would lead me to the high court, which I asked to review my case. If it says no, I risk facing financial ruin.

That longtime customer was Robert Ingersoll. As a floral designer and owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, I served Rob for nearly a decade, creating dozens of unique arrangements for Valentine’s Days and other important events. I knew Rob was gay, but that never mattered. I loved working with him.

Over the years, Rob’s only request that I couldn’t accept was to create floral designs celebrating his same-sex wedding. Because my Christian faith teaches that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, I cannot take part in celebrating a different understanding of marriage. For me, a wedding is different from an event like Valentine’s Day, because it is a sacred ceremony for a sacred union, and I am so personally involved in celebrating it.

I never expected to be sued
But I care for Rob deeply, so I took his hand in mine, gently explained my religious conflict, gave him the names of other floral designers, discussed his engagement, hugged him and said goodbye. Soon after, my state government and the American Civil Liberties Union sued me not only as a business owner but also as an individual.

At first, it was hard to accept that my friend — who initially said he understood my decision and recognized that I expressed it as kindly as I could — partnered with the ACLU to sue me. But my faith calls me to love people — not hold a grudge. And I miss seeing Rob. I wish he’d come back so that I could serve him for another decade.
READ MORE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/10/08/supreme-court-florist-gay-marriage-religious-freedom-column/3866964002/

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