Sunday, February 22, 2015

Suing Over $7.91

A Washington state Attorney General filed suit against a florist for refusing to provide flowers to a same sex wedding, based on the state’s law prohibiting discrimination against “protected classes” (minorities). On first read I found the item unremarkable, but then I read “the rest of the story.”

It turns out the wedding involved a long time customer, Robert Ingersoll, who the florist knew very well was gay because he had been buying flowers for his partner at the florist for more than a decade. When he asked the florist to provide flowers for his wedding, she told him, apparently with regret, that her religion did not permit her to participate in same sex marriage. He responded by “giving her a hug,” and then suing her, “claiming $7.91 in out-of-pocket expenses, or the cost of driving to find a new florist.”

My first reaction is that Ingersoll seems to place great value on his freedom to practice his own beliefs, but he apparently does not think that the florist should have the freedom to comply with her own religious beliefs. This odd position is one which is, I think, altogether too common in today’s society. One certainly does not sue purely for damages when those damages are $7.91.

There appear to be two lawsuits ongoing, although the article is not real clear on that. There seems to be one by the couple for “economic damages to be determined at a later date,” which will probably be whatever “punitive damage” windfall the lawyers can persuade a jury to award, and another by the state for violation of the civil code against discrimination, in which the florist is accused of discriminating against a customer she served for more than ten years.

The law is, as was once famously said however, “an ass” and frequently does put law enforcement into positions where they do have to engage in such practice, so Attorneys General filing cases which on their face seem to deny an individual’s freedom for the sake of society’s greater good is not a big deal. If Ingersoll had not been a long time customer of the florist, I would have no bone to pick with the Attorney General.

He is quoted as saying by example that, “If an African American couple walked into a restaurant But that does not reflect what happened here, because the florist never refused to serve Robert Ingersoll because he was gay. She had been selling flowers to him, and presumably to other gay people, for many years. It was specifically the gay marriage that was her issue.

Since she did not refuse to serve gay people, as a juror I would disagree with her position, would tend to argue that selling flowers for a wedding does not constitute “participating in” that wedding. I would strongly suspect that she is a zealot proselytizing against the institution of gay marriage, but I’m not sure I would find her guilty of breaking any law.

The likely outcome, regardless of the rights or wrongs involved, is that the florist will be ruined, the couple will be enriched and the Attorney General will be reelected, all of which is what these trials are really about anyway.

1 comment:

bruce said...

What ever happened to being able to refuse to do business with someone whom you don't want to? I guess that went out with the SCOTUS ruling that said the government can compel you to buy products & services from a private business. Here, the business has to sell, regardless of their philosophy.

The people enriched are also the shyster lawyers that smell a quick buck from an easy victim that can be painted as a bigot. They may or may not be, but WTF is the atty gen getting involved for? A quick political headline and and publicity.

Yeah, sure the florist is probably a zealot and certainly an ass, but come on... a ruinous lawsuit? Why not just go to another florist who will gladly get their and others business, and word will get around that the first one is an ass, and their business will suffer without the expense and trouble of lawsuit(s).

But that is the business of lawyers and politicians. That's why I distrust and usually despise both.

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