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USA News

Christian florist who decided not to serve gay couple agrees to pay $5K in compensation to end legal battle

by Kelly Valencia

A US Christian florist who was sued by a gay couple after deciding not to provide floral-arrangements for a same-sex wedding, has decided to pay $5,000 in compensation to the couple and end the 10-year-long court battle.

Barronelle Stutzman had been selling flowers to Rob Ingersoll for many years until he asked her in 2013 to do arrangements for his nuptials with another man. But Stutzman declined to do so citing her Christians beliefs as the reason behind the decision.

As a result, both Ingersoll and his partner filed a lawsuit against Stutzman. In 2015, she was issued with a $1,000 (£723) fine by a court in Washington.

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court rejected for a second time the petition by Stutzman for an appeal hearing, after suffering several defeats in lower courts. Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Stutzman, has now reached a settlement with the couple to avoid paying “potentially ruinous attorneys’ fees”.

The settlement includes paying the couple $5,000 and withdrawing a pending petition for a rehearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 77-year-old florist said she felt at peace with the settlement and announced she will be retiring from the shop.

“I am willing to turn the legal struggle for freedom over to others. At age 77, it’s time to retire,” Stutzman said in a letter. “I’ve never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. I’ve met so many kind and wonderful people, who’ve generously offered me their prayers and encouragement and support. And I’ve been blessed with outstanding attorneys through Alliance Defending Freedom who’ve given me not only their legal skills, but their thoughtful friendship.

“Most of all, I’m thankful that God’s love has sustained me through all of the trials and challenges of these last few years,” Stutzman continued. “There is a great deal of division at work in our country today, but God has shown me again and again that His love is stronger than the anger and the pain so many are feeling. And He’s given me countless opportunities to share His love with others along the way.

“If you’ve prayed for me, thank you. If you’ve hated me, well … I’ve prayed for you. And as my case closes, I pray that God will give you the freedom of your conscience, protect your right to make your own choices, whatever they may be, and give us all grace to be patient, forgiving, and respectful of each other,” she concluded. 

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