Indiana's backtracking of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) amid nationwide criticism is surely the latest big controversy in what many see as the struggle to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. But lest we forget that others, too, have elected to discriminate against sexual orientation on their own free will — with support from the similar-minded — an anti-gay marriage Washington florist's fundraiser garnered donations that amounted to tens of thousands of dollars from supporters, after the business was fined for refusing to provide flowers to a gay couple's wedding.
Owned by Barronelle Stutzman, Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, was found guilty of violating consumer protection laws in February and fined $1,000 after Washington state's Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Stutzman arguing that said consumer protection laws outlaw discrimination against a person's sexual orientation. Days later, Stutzman's supporters created a GoFundMe page to help crowdfund the 70-year-old's legal fees that as of Monday, amounted to more than $100,000.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday when donations were at $90,000 that almost half of that amount was raised in the past 24 hours, in large part due to conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch's efforts at promoting the fundraising campaign.
Stutzman allegedly refused to sell flowers to her longtime customer's same-sex wedding in 2013 due to her "relationship with Jesus Christ," reigniting the debate as to how far the law should go in protecting religious freedom that for all intents and purposes legalizes discrimination against gays.
The outpouring of support for Stutzman comes amid the nationwide dispute over religious freedom, the rights of business owners, and LGBT rights, reported the Times, which most recently put Indiana and Gov. Mike Pence under intense scrutiny for passing the RFRA into law. Although Pence later added that there would be an anti-discrimination clause in the law — after the backlash surprised even him — rights activists in other states are engaged in similar battles against conservative lawmakers allegedly attempting to mask their anti-LGBT stance under the guise of religious freedom.
Residents in Arkansas, for one, saw Gov. Asa Hutchinson back down from a similar bill he had vowed to pass into law prior to the Indiana backlash, instead urging the state Legislature to hand him a bill that resembled a federal law prohibiting governmental meddling in religious practices. Hutchinson later signed that legislation.
The funds donated to Stutzman's successful campaign are only a fraction of that of the online crowdfunding effort for Indiana's Memories Pizza. The pizza joint was the target of anger and ridicule after its owners said it would not cater a gay wedding (a pizza wedding?) in light of Indiana's RFRA, causing it to close. Memories Pizza's GoFundMe campaign ended after five days of fundraising on Saturday with a grand total of $842,287 in donations.