Fox News rallied behind a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, continuing the network's defense of the right to discriminate against gay customers.
On February 18, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that florist Barronelle Stutzman had illegally violated the state's Consumer Protection Act when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple's wedding ceremony. Though Stutzman claimed her actions were religiously motivated, the judge made clear that religious belief did not create a blank check to violate the state's non-discrimination law, writing:
For over 135 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.
Following the ruling, Washington's attorney general offered Stutzman a settlement - stop discriminating, pay the law's $2000 penalty, and pay $1 to cover the cost of the case - but Stuztman refused the deal.
On the February 23 edition of The Kelly File, guest host Shannon Bream conducted the first ever television interview with Stutzman, along with an attorney from the extreme anti-gay group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her. Bream has a history of championing the right to discriminate against gay customers, coming to the defense of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws and suggesting that gay customers should "just go down the street" and find someone who is willing to serve them.
Throughout the interview, Bream helped depict Stutzman as a victim who risked losing her home and livelihood because of the state's non-discrimination law:
STUTZMAN: There's not a price on freedom. You can't buy my freedom. It's me now, but tomorrow it's gonna be you. You gotta wake up.
BREAM: Do you think people get that? Do you think maybe hearing your story, seeing a real person and knowing this is how these policies play out - we talked about it - wasn't possibly that you would just be out of business, but we're talking about a decision by the attorney general here, the state attorney general, that sounds like they could come after everything you have personally as well.
STUTZMAN: They're talking about bullying me into doing something that is against my faith. They can't do that. They can get rid of me but they can't get rid of God.
Bream concluded the interview by asking Stutzman, “Do you think there is a way to coexist? Do you think we'll come to a solution where you can have your religious beliefs... and there's space for everybody to operate in that without anyone getting sued?” Fox News has used stories like Stutzman's to make the case for draconian “license-to-discriminate” laws that would give business owners broad discretion to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. These laws, unsurprisingly, are largely being crafted by ADF, which has been all-too-eager to use Fox News to bring national attention to its pro-discrimination legal work.