'Right Side of History'

The Washington Supreme Court rules against Arlene's Flowers; plus, two dogs call it a day

click to enlarge Two of the Spokane County Sheriff's K-9 officers are retiring March 1.
Two of the Spokane County Sheriff's K-9 officers are retiring March 1.


A Richland, Washington, florist violated the state's anti-discrimination law when she refused to provide floral arrangements for a SAME-SEX WEDDING, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled last week.

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers, argued that providing the flowers for a same-sex wedding goes against her religious beliefs, and requiring her to do so violates her First Amendment rights. She also asserted that there were other florists in the area who were willing to do the arrangements, and therefore her refusal was harmless.

Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud writes in a unanimous decision: "We emphatically reject this argument. We agree with [the plaintiffs] that 'this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.' ... As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined."

In 2013, Stutzman refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime friend and customer, Robert Ingersoll. The Washington State Attorney General and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington sued Stutzman, and a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled in their favor in 2015. The case gained national attention, highlighting the conflict between equal treatment under the law and the right to freedom of speech and religion.

Stutzman, who called the state Supreme Court ruling "terrifying," intends to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor," Ingersoll and his husband, Curt Freed, said in a statement. "The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history." (MITCH RYALS)


Two of Spokane's finest are set to retire March 1 and go live the rest of their days with their partners' families. Spokane County Sheriff dogs Jet and Laslo, with 12 years of service between them, will soon turn in their uniforms, and with permission from the Spokane County Commission, live with their handlers.

The German Shepherds have seen plenty of action in their years on the force's K-9 UNIT, and have left their mark on the nearly 40-year-old program.

Laslo, 7, and handler Cpl. Jeff Thurman have worked together for four years, often nabbing suspects on the busy night shift.

"They have been extremely active as far as being out working nights and searching, apprehending, and assisting with the apprehension of [suspects]," says Deputy Mark Gregory, Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Jet, 9, and handler Deputy Bob Bond have worked together for eight years, often helping train the rest of the team, and will soon enjoy more free time together as Bond also plans to retire.

"K-9s are an extremely valuable resource to the patrol division and the community," Gregory says. "They enable us to be able to find some of these suspects that run while keeping the deputies safe." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

Coronavirus Dinner and Discussion @ Southside Community Center

Wed., Feb. 26, 6-7:30 p.m.
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About The Authors

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...