Surprise, a pretty bouquet! Los Angeles Times covers both sides of same-sex wedding flowers lawsuit

We've had our cake at GetReligion — or at least critiqued plenty of coverage of it. Here, here, here and here, for example.

Perhaps it's time we enjoyed some culture-war flowers, too.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week on a judge's ruling in yet another case pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom:

The top of the Times' story:

A Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious reasons, violated consumer protection laws, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, centered on Arlene’s Flowers, a shop in eastern Washington that refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, with the owner telling a longtime customer that it was “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The attorney general argued that the business had violated state consumer protection laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington since 2012.
In a 60-page opinion, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom said Barronelle Stutzman’s actions became illegal the day voters passed a referendum legalizing gay marriage.
Stutzman had argued that the tenets of her "Southern Baptist tradition" precluded her from arranging flowers for same-sex weddings, or to allow any of her employees to do so.

Two weeks ago, I dinged the Los Angeles newspaper for the way it framed a story that asked — prepare for a loaded question — "Should religion give businesses an excuse to not serve gay couples?"

But I liked this latest story.

Right from the start, the Times simply presents the facts and gives each relevant party an opportunity to present its point of view — as impartial journalism ought to do.

The 700-word account enlightens readers on the florist's perspective:

An attorney for Stutzman criticized the ruling, calling it a blow to free expression.
"The ruling basically said that if you dare to not celebrate same-sex marriage because it violates your religious convictions, that the government has a right to bring about your personal and professional ruin," Kristen Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Times. "Her home, her business ... her life savings and retirement, these are all in jeopardy ... all because of her deeply held religious views." ...
Stutzman argued, in part, that her floral arrangements were artistic expression and were protected speech under the 1st Amendment, and that she could not be compelled to "speak" through her floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Readers hear, too, from the plaintiffs:

In a statement released in December by the ACLU, which represented the couple, (Curt) Freed and (Robert) Ingersoll said they were "hurt and saddened" when Stutzman denied them service. "We respect everyone's beliefs, but businesses that are open to the public have an obligation to serve everyone," the couple said.
"Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America," Sarah Dunne, legal director of ACLU Washington, said in a statement. "But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are."

Kudos to the Times for its fair, evenhanded approach on this story.

By all means, GetReligion readers, smell all the pretty flowers.

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